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Watch thou in all things, endure afflictions (or hardships), do the work of an evangelist, make 
full proof of thy ministry." 2 Tim. iv. 5. 








THE difficulty I anticipated in writing the Biography 
of one so nearly related to me was very soon for 
gotten as I proceeded with my task, and felt more 
and more deeply how utterly insignificant are all 
such earthly ties, in presence of the higher relations 
of that eternal kingdom in which my lamented 
Brother so entirely lived. If, while he was still with 
us, it was possible for those most closely connected 
with him in some measure to know him " after the 
flesh," one instantly felt so soon as he had passed 
within the veil that henceforth we could know him 
so no more. 

The materials from which the narrative has been 
drawn are 1st, My own personal recollections and 
those of other intimate friends ; 2d, Private letters 
addressed chiefly to members of his own family; 
and 3d, Copious journals, extending over the whole 
period of his home ministry, and continued, though 
in a briefer and more fragmentary manner, during 
the early years of his residence in China. From 
these last I have quoted very largely, but not more 
so I believe than those who are really interested in 
his work would wish me to have done. Indeed, the 
difficulty often was merely to extract from a docu- 


ment, which many readers doubtless would have 
wished to possess entire. 

To the many friends to whom I have been in 
debted for valuable materials, I have made acknow 
ledgment in the course of the work at the places 
where their communications have been used; but I 
would here specially mention the names of the late 
Rev. Dr. Burns, of Toronto, who contributed the tenth 
chapter; the Rev. Duncan M Gregor, M.A., of Dun 
dee, and the Rev. Dr. Kirkpatrick, of Dublin, who 
furnished the graphic sketches of my Brother s 
labours in Edinburgh and Dublin; and the Rev. 
Carstairs Douglas, M. A., of Amoy, to whose loving 
and painstaking endeavours I am indebted for 
almost all the precious memorials from China which 
enrich the closing chapters. 

My single aim has been to present a true and 
life-like picture of him whose footsteps I had un 
dertaken to trace; and that thus being dead he may 
yet speak, just as he spoke while he was with us, to 
the praise of that divine grace which he so greatly 
magnified, and by which alone, as he so profoundly 
felt, he was what he was. 

December 6tk, 1869. 




EARLY YEARS, . . . . ... . . . i 





ST. ANDREWS, PERTH, &c., 131 





CANADA, 2 5 6 








CANTON, 372 

AMOY, 378 

FIRST-FRUITS, . . . . . . . . .401 












the present memoir, was the third son of the 
Rev. William Hamilton Burns, D.D., minister succes 
sively of Dun in Angus, and of Kilsyth in Stirlingshire, 
and was born in the manse of the former parish on the 
ist day of April, 1815. It was a quiet and gentle 
spot, full of stillness and peace, nestling, with the ad 
joining church and graveyard, close within the bosom 
of a romantic dell, amid the shadows of ancient trees 
and the hoarse chorus of rooks high overhead, which 
seemed rather to increase than to break the silence. 
A little beyond, reached by a rustic bridge across an 
arm of the ravine, was the gray mansion-house of the 
Erskines, with its antique garden and bowling-green 
and smooth-shaven lawn, carrying back the thoughts into 
the far past, as associated in popular tradition with stories 
of "the good Superintendent" and the brave John Knox. 


With this tranquil scene, little suggestive of profound 
spiritual experiences or intense moral struggles, were his 
earliest memories linked. To the neighbouring cathedral 
city of Brechin, too, of which a paternal uncle was then 
minister, and which by the continual coming and going 
of cousins and common friends had become to us as 
another home, our thoughts in after-days often recurred 
with the fine old church and churchyard, and the castle 
steep and the castle pool, and the quaint streets, and the 
fair sunny gardens, and the scarlet-vested town s officers, 
the objects to us of continual wonderment; and chief of 
all, the reverend face and form of the good pastor, whose 
very look was a benediction, all bright for ever in the 
golden light of childhood. In his sixth year, however, 
all this was left behind, and became as the dreamy 
reminiscence of a bygone world. In the year 1821 his 
father was translated to a wider and more stirring sphere, 
where the family life developed itself henceforth under 
intenser and more stimulating influences. The village of 
Kilsyth, situated about twelve miles east of Glasgow, at 
the foot of an undulating range of picturesque green hills, 
the gentler continuation of the more rugged Campsie 
Fells, contains a mixed population of hand-loom weavers, 
colliers, and shopkeepers, which numbered at that time 
about 3000 souls, and formed the centre of a parish which 
in its landward part contained about 2000 more. Here 
the wheels of life moved more swiftly. There was a 
greater stir of mind, greater variety of interests, greater 
impetus and force of existence everyway, intellectual, 
moral, social. The chatting groups in the market-place 


and at the street corners, the merry song often sustained 
in full chorus, blending with the sound of the shuttle in 
the long loom-shops, the keen party politics and the strong 
and even bitter denominational sympathies, the eager and 
sometimes little-ceremonious canvassings of ministers and 
sermons, the collisions and mutual jealousies of class and 
class, with all the other well-known incidents of a south- 
country weaving village in the neighbourhood of a great 
industrial and commercial centre, formed altogether a 
scene in strong contrast to the still life of our former home. 
A little to the south of this little busy hive, and separated 
from it only by a narrow valley, stands the manse, with 
its sheltering thicket of planes and beeches, and com 
manding an extensive and beautiful prospect not only of 
the village and the hills, but over a long strath, level as 
the sea, to the far west, where the blue summit of Goatfell 
can be dimly descried from the parlour window in a clear 
day. Here our second home was established, and our 
deepest and most lasting home affections nurtured. It 
was to us a sacred and blessed spot in every sense, full 
of quiet pleasures, healthy activities, and gentle charities 
a manse home, and a manse home of the best type, in 
which cheerful piety, quiet thoughtfulness, and a modest 
and reverend dignity of speech and carriage, formed to 
gether the purest element in which the young life could 
develop itself and receive its first impressions of truth and 
duty. Here of course, as elsewhere, it was the parent that 
made the home, and in this respect I think we were happy 
beyond the lot of most. Our father, gentle, reverend, 
gracious, full of kind thoughts, devout affections, and fresh 


genial sympathies serious without moroseness, cheerful 
and even sometimes gay without lightness, zealous, diligent, 
conscientious without a touch of impetuous haste, and 
carrying about with him withal an atmosphere of calm re 
pose and staid, measured dignity, which in these bustling 
days is becoming increasingly rare he was the very model 
of a type of the Christian pastorate which is fast passing 
away; the father alike and the friend of his whole parish, 
and the loving centre of everything kind and good and true 
that is passing within its bounds. To him our mother 
was in some respects the direct counterpart. Of a nimble 
buoyant active frame, alike of body and mind, she was 
all light and life and motion, and was as it were the glad 
sunshine and bright ailgel of a house which had been 
otherwise too still and sombre. There was not in those 
days under their roof much direct and systematic home 
education. The influence and teaching of the place was 
rather felt, or experienced without being felt, than visibly 
obtruded and pressed upon us. " My father s government 
was rather calm and strong, than bustling and energetic; 
he was a regulating and steadying power, rather than a 
busy executive. He was, in short, felt rather as a presence 
than seen as an agency; the element in which we lived, 
the atmosphere which we breathed day by day; something, 
in short, which was as it were presupposed, and in its 
silent influence entered into everything that was thought, 
felt, planned, enjoyed, or suffered within our little world. 
We were not often or much with him, not so much, I think, 
as would as a general thing be desirable. His calm and 
unimpulsive temperament here, as elsewhere, fitted him 


to act rather by continuous influence, than by distinct 
and specific efforts. A casual rencounter in the garden 
walk or in the harvest field; a forenoon drive to some 
neighbouring manse or country house; half an hour s 
private reading with his boys in the study before break 
fast; above all, the Sabbath evening hour of catechising 
and prayer; these, with now and then the reading aloud 
in the fireside circle of some interesting and popular 
volume, a task in which he greatly delighted and much ex 
celled were the chief occasions of direct intercourse and 
influence between the father and the child. Sometimes, 
too, along the garden walk at eventide, or through a parti 
tion wall at midnight, the ejaculated words of secret medi 
tation and prayer would reach our ears and hearts, like the 
sounding of the high-priest s bells within the vail." 1 It 
was in this way that the first touch of serious thought I ever 
observed in my brother was brought to light. We had 
lain long awake in our common sleeping chamber after 
some months of separation, talking eagerly of all our ideas 
and plans of life, in which as yet God and heaven had little 
share, when the well-known sound from within the sanctu 
ary was heard in the silence. He was hushed at once at 
least to momentary seriousness, and whispered : " There can 
be no doubt where his heart is, and where he is going." It 
was not long before the great, decisive change took place, 
and may possibly have been the first living seed of grace 
that sunk into his heart. But the more active manage- 

1 The Pastor of Kilsyth : a brief biography of Mr. Burns father, 
published some years ago, from which this sketch of the home life at 
Kilsyth is partly taken. 


merit of the household and of the home education was 
safe in the hands of his more nimble and lively partner, 
who seemed made, if any one ever was, to make home 
and home duties happy. " Herself the very soul of 
springy activity and elastic cheerfulness, she kept all 
around her alive and stirring; while by the infection of 
her own blithesome and courageous spirit, labour became 
light and duty pleasant. Never was she so much at 
home as when, in one of those occasional inundations of 
friendly kith and kin to which our large connection and 
central situation exposed us, the manse became too nar 
row for its inmates, and double-bedded rooms and extem 
porized shake-downs became the order of the day. Was 
there now and then, amid this universal quickness and 
alacrity, a slight tinge of sharpness in chiding the dreamy 
loiterer and the handless slut? Perhaps so: yet we 
children scarcely saw it, to whom she ever spoke in the 
true mother tones of gentleness and love. From her lips 
and at her knees we learned our earliest lessons of truth, 
and in her voice and face first traced, as in a clear 
mirror, the lineaments of that gentle and loving god 
liness which hath the promise of the life that now is 
and of that which is to come." 1 Such was the element 
in which my brother s earliest years were spent, and in 
which his first experiences of life were formed. There 
was another household, with which, second to our own, 
our most hallowed thoughts of home and of home life 
were associated the manse of Strathblane, situated about 
twelve miles from Kilsyth, in a quiet valley at the foot 

1 The Pastor of Kilsyth. 


of Ballagan, at the other end of the Campsie range. 
Dr. William Hamilton, the head of that household, and 
the father of the better known and well -beloved Dr. 
James Hamilton of London, was my father s ancient 
friend, and in former days had been used, while the 
assistant minister of a church in Dundee, to visit us, 
especially at communion times, in our old home at 
Dun. His stately form, and a certain almost prophetic 
majesty of mien and bearing, powerfully impressed us, 
and his image and voice, as he paced up antf. down the 
manse parlour, in eager discourse or with rapt air reciting 
some favourite snatch of sacred song, remained ever after 
wards a cherished tradition in the family. When in after- 
years the two friends found themselves again established 
within easy distance of each other, the old relation was 
resumed, and was kept up not only by the official inter 
change of services at communion times, but by a cordial 
intimacy between the families which was signalized by oc 
casional comings and goings in bright summer days along 
the romantic valley between. Those visits were always 
seasons of high enjoyment, and revealed to us a phase of 
the Christian home which was to us in some measure new. 
Dr. Hamilton was a man far above the common standard 
of his class and of his time, alike in intellectual stature 
and in moral elevation and strength. A ripe scholar, a 
profound divine, and a minister of singular fervour and 
sanctity, he was characterized at the same time by an 
enlargement and enlightened liberality of view in regard to 
all public questions civil and religious, at once admirable 
and rare. He was an ardent friend of the missionary cause 


while that cause was yet in its infancy and still suffered 
the full brunt of the world s scorn. He was a reformer 
at a time when, to nine-tenths of his order, reform, 
associated with ideas of revolution and church destruc 
tion, was a name of terror. I remember during the days 
of the Reform Bill, when the whole land was astir with 
the excitement and the fear of a movement which seemed 
to most of us like an irruption of the Vandals, hearing 
with dismay, how a bannered host of workmen from the 
print-fields in his neighbourhood had actually, at his own 
desire, filed, to the sound of drum, past his manse, 
encamped on the green lawn before the door, and received 
from the good pastor not only words of kindly counsel 
and encouragement, but "good cheer" also of another 
and more substantial kind. But it was in his study that 
he was most at home and in his glory. He had a hunger 
for books, which fortunately his ample means enabled 
him to gratify by the accumulation of stores which over 
flowed far beyond their proper sanctuary into every 
available nook and corner of the house, and which 
seemed to us, accustomed to more common things, one 
of the wonders of the world. The spirit of the father 
infected the children, and diffused through the place 
an air of studious application and still quietude which 
was almost cloistral. Yet was the house happy and 
cheerful withal. The favourite sports and pastimes, 
indeed, were like everything else about the place, of the 
intellectual cast, but none the less on that account 
bright and gladsome, a boyish lecture to the literary 
society at the neighbouring print-fields; an animated 

t. 1-17.] A "HAPPY HOME. 

discussion of the respective merits of Wilberforce and 
Brougham, and Grey, and Henry Melville and Dr. Chal 
mers; or a mock trial in the parlour in the evening, in 
which boys and girls alike bore their share, and the 
several parts of judge, jury, panel, and pleading counsel 
were sustained with an ability and gravity which alike 
astonished and confounded us. How vividly do I recall 
the very look and voice with which a fair and gentle girl, 
"the little one" and the favourite of the family, came for 
ward, with a blithesome air w r hich sadly belied her grim 
part, shouting, "I m to be the panel." James, of course, 
was senior counsel for the crown, as well as the presiding 
genius of the whole scene; William, his younger brother, 
and now a respected minister of the Free Church, sat, 
duly bewigged and gowned, as the most reverend judge, 
while the remaining parts, I am afraid, broke sadly down 
in my brother s hands and mine. Altogether it was one 
of the brightest and holiest spots I have ever known 
on earth a place which angels might well visit, or desire 
to look into in passing by on errands of mercy and 
grace; so that it seems quite in the natural course of 
things that there should have proceeded from it the 
author of the Mount of Olives and the Happy Home. We 
returned musing many thoughts, and feeling that we had 
got a look into a world to which, accustomed to a more 
outward and muscular style of life, we had been in great 
measure strangers. My brother s bent, especially, was at 
this time decidedly in the "muscular" direction. He 
gave far greater promise of becoming a mighty hunter 
than a deep student bearing the pale hue of thought. 

10 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1815-32. 

Strong of limb and of sanguine temperament, his heart 
was in the open fields and woods, and in all manner 
of manly and athletic exercises. He spent long days 
with his fishing-rod on the Carron water on the other 
side of the hills, along with a congenial friend from the 
village. He wandered for hours along the hedges and 
through the fields with an old carabine, borrowed from 
the village blacksmith, in search of sparrows and crows. 
He was famous for lifting up his axe upon the thick 
trees, at one time clearing the whole precincts of the 
superfluous growth of years by his unaided strength. 
He did yeoman s service on occasions in the hay or corn 
fields, and was in great request by the "minister s man" 
when a sudden emergency called for the aid of a volun 
teer force. I do not remember, at that time, any books 
which greatly interested him except these two the 
Pilgrim s Progress, which he read over and over again 
during a time of confinement occasioned by an accident, 
and the Life of Sir William Wallace, bought with a 
half-crown given him when a very little boy by Dr. 
Hamilton. There were, however, few books then fitted 
to arrest the attention and stir the minds of the young, 
and especially of boys. There were no Martin Rat 
tlers, or Old Jacks, or Tom Browns. Even such 
as there were had in their outward appearance a most 
uninviting aspect. The rude engravings of former days 
had just been banished, in the interests of high art and 
good taste, and the more graceful illustrations of present 
times had not yet come in. Thus the most enchanting 
of books had, just at that particular juncture, a most 

JEt. 1-17.] SCHOOL DAYS. 1 1 

repulsive aspect. The Pilgrim s Progress was without 
an effigy even of Giant Pope or the Shepherds on the 
Delectable Mountains. Robinson Crusoe was without the 
shaggy umbrella and the footprint on the shore. Even 
the Scots Worthies and the Book of Martyrs were 
mere acres of black type, without one solemn gleam 
of the gathered faggots and the aspiring flames, and of 
the clasped hands and uplifted eyes of martyr faith and 
victory. Thus there was comparatively little then to 
allure or to keep within doors a stirring boy, urged by 
a strong physical impulse toward the open fields and 
woods. Meanwhile, however, the essential matters of a 
common school education went on satisfactorily. He 
attended, all the time of his residence at home, the 
parish school of the place, then under the care of the 
Rev. Alexander Salmon, afterwards of Paisley and Sydney, 
a teacher of rare intelligence and skill, who was among 
the first Scottish schoolmasters to avail himself of the 
modern improved methods of tuition, and to substitute 
an intellectual interest for the old iron sway of the ferula. 
I have myself a most vivid recollection of the very time 
when the grim reign of terror came to an end, and the 
halcyon days of lively questioning and kindly moral 
influence began. Here my brother did his work well, 
and kept a good place in all his classes. He became a 
good reader, a good arithmetician and accountant, and 
learned, at least in a certain rough way, the elements 
of Latin; without, however, any kindlings of desire after 
further attainments in the higher learning. His thoughts 
were still all outward, and his highest ambition and 

12 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1815-32. 

declared resolution to be a country farmer, like the 
fathers of most of his school companions and friends. 
And yet, even then, a touch of deeper feeling would now 
and then betray itself, which revealed the hidden fire 
that slumbered within. A touching instance of this I 
very vividly remember. The population of a dovecot 
which he owned as his special property, had become 
redundant, and the decree had gone forth from the 
higher powers that some of his favourites should fall a 
sacrifice to the public good. Yielding reluctant to the 
stern necessity, he undertook himself the office of execu 
tioner, which he deemed would be more mercifully dis 
charged by his own hand than by any other; and planting 
himself carabine in hand at the corner of a wall at a little 
distance, took his aim resolutely but tremblingly at one 
of the devoted flock perched on the ridge of the house, 
between him and the sky. The shot missed its mark, 
but unhappily only partially. The poor bird was sorely 
wounded in the foot, but not killed; and gathering up 
the broken and bleeding limb beneath its wing, stood on 
the other, silent and motionless, a spectacle of agony. 
Instantly his heart smote him for the deed he had done; 
he was now, to his own sense, no more the executioner, 
but the cruel murderer; and he stood there rooted to 
the spot for hours together, as in bitter penance, gazing 
up with streaming eyes to the hapless victim, which 
seemed in its turn to look down reproachfully upon him. 
The whole scene, which is distinctly before me now, 
might almost have reminded one of Rispah, the daughter 
of Aiah, in her long watch beside the bodies of her 


slaughtered sons, "when she took sackcloth and spread 
it for her on the rock, from the beginning of harvest, 
until water dropped upon them out of heaven." A cir 
cumstance, however, which now transpired, changed at 
once the whole course of his thoughts, and opened a 
new, and, as the event proved, a most momentous chap 
ter in his life. A maternal uncle, a respected lawyer in 
Aberdeen, who happened to visit us at this time, not ap 
proving of the farming project, kindly invited William, then 
in his thirteenth year, to spend a winter with him, and 
take advantage of the higher training of the grammar- 
school of that city, then at the very height of its fame, 
under the distinguished rectorship of the Rev. Dr. James 
Melvin. I must here indulge myself with a passing tri 
bute to the memory of a revered teacher, to whom my 
brother, with myself and many others, owed much then 
well known within his own sphere, but since his death 
far more widely, as one of the first classical scholars of 
his day, and, more perhaps than any other man, the 
reviver in modern times of exact scholarship, and especi 
ally of Latin scholarship, in Scotland. In doing so, I 
avail myself of the graphic pencil of a distinguished 
alumnus of the school, who has with fond and loving 
hand drawn the portrait of his revered master: "I have 
known many other men/ says the editor of Macmillaris 
Magazine, "since I knew him men of far greater cele 
brity in the world, and of intellectual claims of far more 
rousing character than belong to Latin scholarship but 
I have known no one, and I expect to know no one, so 
perfect in his type as Melvin. Every man whose memory 

14 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1815-32. 

is tolerably faithful can reckon up those to whom he is 
himself indebted; and trying to estimate at this moment 
the relative proportions of influence from this man and 
from that man encountered by me, which I can still feel 
running in my veins, it so happens that I can trace 
none more distinct, however it may have been marred 
and mudded, than that stream which as Melvin gave it 
was truly honey wine. .... During our three 
years in the under-classes we saw Melvin only incident 
ally, and on the weekly gathering of the whole school in 
the public school-room; while the fact that he wore a 
gown and kept his hat on, while the other three masters 
were without gowns and had their hats off, greatly im 
pressed the young ones. His authority over the other 
masters was never made in the least apparent, but it was 
felt to exist; and there was always an awful sense of what 
might be the consequence of an appeal to him in a case 
of discipline. No such appeal in my day ever ended in 
anything more serious than a public verbal rebuke; but 
that was terrible enough. For the aspect of the man 
then in the prime of manhood, lean, but rather tall and 
well-shouldered, and with a face of the pale-dark kind, 
naturally austere, and made more stern by the marks of 
the small-pox -was unusually awe-compelling. The name 
Grim, or more fully, Grim Pluto, had been bestowed 
upon him, after a phrase in one of the lessons, by one of 
his early classes; and this name was known to all the 
school. When he entered the school gate the whisper in 
the public school would be, Here s Grim; and, as he 
walked through the school into his own class-room, look- 

Mt. 1-17.] DR. JAMES MELVIN. IE; 

ing neither right nor left, with his gold watch-chain and 
seals dangling audibly as he went, all would be hushed. 
And yet, with all this fear of him, there was an affection 
and a longing to be in his classes, to partake of that 
richer and finer instruction of which we heard such 

When one did come fnto the rector s immediate 
charge, one came to know him better. The great awe of 
him still remained. Stricter or more perfect order than 
that which Melvin kept in the two classes which he 
taught simultaneously, it is impossible to conceive. But 
it was all done by sheer moral impressiveness, and a power 
of rebuke, either by mere glance or by glance and word 
together, in which he was masterly. As a born ruler of 
boys, Arnold himself cannot have surpassed Melvin. 
And though there were wanting in Melvin s case many of 
those incidents which must have contributed to the com 
plete veneration with which the Rugby boys looked at 
Arnold the known reputation of the man, for example, 
in the wide world of thought and letters beyond the walls 
of the school yet, so far as personal influence within the 
school was concerned, there was in Melvin some form of 
almost all those things that we read of in Arnold, as tend 
ing to blend love more and more, on closer intimacy, with 
the first feeling of reverence. Integrity and truthfulness, 
conjoined with a wonderful considerateness, were charac 
teristic of all he said and did. His influence was so 
high-toned and strict, that, even had he taught nothing 
expressly, it would have been a moral benefit for a boy to 
have been within it. It did one good even to look at 

1 6 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1815-32. 

him day after day as he sat and presided over us. As he 
sat now, in his own class-room, always with his hat off, 
one came to admire more and more, despite his grim and 
somewhat scarred face, the beauty of liis finely-formed 
head, the short black hair of which, crisping close round 
it, defined its shape exactly, and made it more an ideal 
Roman head than would have been found on any other 
shoulders in a whole Campus Martius of the Aberdonians. 
One un-Roman habit he had, that of snuff-taking. But 
though he took snuff in extraordinary quantities, it was, if I 
may so say, as a Roman gentleman would have taken it 
with all the dignity of the toga, and every pinch emphatic. 
"In that teaching of Latin which Melvin perseveringly 
kept to as his particular business, a large portion of the 
work of his classes consisted, of course, of readings in the 
Latin authors, in continuation of what had been read in 
the junior classes. Here, unless perchance he began with 
a survey of the grammar, to see how we were grounded, 
and to rivet us afresh to the rock, we first came to perceive 
his essential peculiarities. Accuracy, to the last and 
minutest word read, and to the nicest shade of distinction 
between two apparent synonyms, was what he studied 
and insisted on, and this always with a view to the culti 
vation of a taste for pure and classic, as distinct from 
Brummagem Latinity. . . . The quantity read was not 
large seldom more than a page a day but every 
sentence was gone over at least five times first read 
aloud by the boy that might be called on then translated 
word for word with the utmost literality, each Latin word 
being named as the English equivalent was fitted to it 

JEi. 1-17.] A SCOTTISH ARNOLD. 1 7 

then rendered as a whole somewhat more freely and 
elegantly, but still with no permission of that slovenly 
practice of translation which is called giving the spirit 
of the original, then analyzed etymologically, each 
important verb or noun becoming the text for an ex 
ercise up and down, backwards and forwards, in all 
appertaining to it; and lastly, construed or analyzed 
in respect of its syntax and idiom, the reasons of its 

moods, cases and what not Of course in the 

readings, whether from the prose writers or the poets, 
occasion was taken by Melvin to convey all sorts of 
minute pieces of elucidative historical and biographical 
information, in addition to what the boys were expected 
to have procured for themselves in the act of preparation, 
and in this way a considerable amount of curious lore 
about the Roman calendar, the Roman wines and the 
way of drinking them, &c., was gradually and accurately 
acquired. Never either did Melvin leave a passage of 
peculiar beauty of thought, expression, or sound, without 
rousing us to a sense of this peculiarity, and impressing 
it upon us, by reading the passage himself, eloquently and 
lovingly, so as to give effect to it. Over a line like 
Virgil s description of the Cyclopes working at the anvil : 

Illi inter sese magna vi brachia tollunt, 

he would linger with real ecstacy, repeating it again and 
again with something of a tremble of excitement in his 
grave voice. Perhaps, however, it was in expounding his 
favourite Horace that he rose oftenest to what may be 
called the higher criticism. It was really beautiful to 

1 8 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1815-32. 

hear him dissect a passage in Horace and then put it 
together again thrillingly complete." 

But it was in the matter of prose composition most of 
all, that the Aberdeen grammar-school then stood, and I 
believe still stands, ja:ile princeps among the higher schools 
in Scotland. The great charm of this part of the work 
was the rigid and absolute accuracy which was exacted 
throughout, and the perfect confidence that, all being 
done in the school, beyond the reach of surreptitious aid 
from tutors and friends, everything was fair and square 
between one competitor and another. I believe that the 
universal adoption of this principle, instead of the present 
loose practice of giving exercises home to be manu 
factured any way which the lax consciences of tutors and 
pupils may acquiesce in, would do more than any one 
thing to revive the spirit of thorough scholarship in our 
Scottish schools. If any justification were needed of 
Dr. Melvin s method in this respect, it might be found in 
the universal interest, rising in all the better boys even to 
enthusiasm, which this part of the school work excited. 
"Two entire days in every week were devoted to the 
versions, and these were the days of keenest emulation. 
In anticipation of them it was our habit to jot down in 
note-books of our own, divided alphabetically, and with 
index margins for the leading words, any specialties of 
phrase or idiom, any niceties about #/, quum t quod and 
quid) ille and iste, liter and quiz, situs and ejus,plerique and 
plurimi and the like, upon which Melvin dwelt in the 
course of our readings. With these manuscript phrase- 
books and idiom-books (containing doubtless much 

JEt. 1-17.] A SCOTTISH ARNOLD. 19 

that might be found in print, but precious as compiled by 
ourselves) and with Ainsworth s Dictionary ... we 
assembled on the morning of every version day, and 
sure enough in the piece of English which Melvin then 
dictated to us, which was always a model of correct style 
and punctuation, and generally not uninteresting in matter, 
there were some of the traps laid for us against which he 
had been recently warning us. We sat and wrote the 
version those who were done first (generally the first 
faction boys) going up to Melvin s desk to have them 
examined who then became his assistants in examining 
the other versions so as to clear them all within the 
day. 1 . . . The system of marking was peculiar. You 
were classed, not by your positive merits of ingenuity, 
elegance and such like, but as in the world itself, by your 
freedom from faults or illegalities. Only between two ver 
sions coequal in respect of freedom from error was any posi 
tive merit of elegance allowed to decide the superiority. 
.... There were three grades of error the minimus, or 
as we called it, the mime, which counted as i, and included 
misspellings, wrong choices of w r ords, &c. ; the medius, or 
midie, which counted as 2, and included false tenses and 
other such slips; and the maximus, or maxie, which 
counted as 4, and included wrong genders, a glaring 

1 This does not exactly agree with my recollections. In my time 
it was only versions from the lower regions of the class that were 
committed to such prentice hands. Every pupil who had the 
slightest pretensions to scholarship, or capacity for scholarship, had 
his exercise examined and appraised by the rector himself, either 
publicly before the class at the afternoon meeting or at home over 

20 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1815-32. 

indicative for a subjunctive, &c. On a maxie in the 
version of a good scholar, Melvin was always cuttingly 
severe. Ut . . . dixit] he would say, underscoring 
the two words in a sentence where the latter should have 
been diceret; *ut . . . dixit] he would repeat, re 
freshing his frown with a pinch of snuff; l ut . . . 
dixitj he would say a third time, with a look in the cul 
prit s face as if he had murdered his father; O William, 
William! you have been very giddy of late; and William 
would descend crestfallen, and be miserable for half a 

There is not an old Melvinian in all the world who 
will not recognize this picture, or fail to authenticate 
with a thrill of pleasure every line and shade of it. If 
"William" is still alive, he will have felt that look still 
upon him as he read these lines, as we ourselves can at 
this moment recall with a shudder just such another. 
My brother at once felt the fascination of the place and 
of the man, and caught the breath of a new existence, in 
which all his old dreams of farming and of a country life 
vanished out of sight. He fought his way steadily up 
the class till he reached the genial and exhilarating air 
of the highest "faction," and closed the session as one 
of the rector s best and most trusted scholars. When 
he returned home, even after the interval of a college 
session, his talk was still of Melvin and of the grammar- 
school, and was of such an enthusiastic kind as to kindle 
in me an irrepressible longing to explore the same 
Eldorado of golden knowledge and pure classic lore. 
The effects of the mental discipline thus acquired were 


lasting, and had an important influence on the whole 
course of his future life, forming in him once for all 
those habits of rigid accuracy, thorough work, and con 
scientious regard for rule and law which ever afterwards 
distinguished him; while at the same time awakening and 
training that remarkable faculty for the study of language 
which stood him in such good stead in the missionary 
labours of later years. From the school he passed to 
the University, standing fifth on the list of bursars or 
open scholars in Marischal College, from among more 
than a hundred competitors; and after two successive 
sessions, in which he obtained honourable distinction in 
all his classes, returned home in the spring of 1831, 
having completed, as was then thought, his education and 
full preparation for the work of his life. The nature of 
that work he had already chosen. His residence with 
his uncle at Aberdeen had had naturally enough the same 
effect upon him as the companionship of farmers sons 
at the Kilsyth parish school, and he was now accordingly 
as decidedly set on the profession of the law, as before 
on a country life. His father, who had earnestly desired 
his dedication to the Christian ministry, gave his reluctant 
consent, and a few months afterwards he was settled 
with his uncle, Mr. Alexander Burns, a writer to the 
signet in Edinburgh, with the view of being bound as an 
apprentice, so soon as the necessary certificates from his 
college professors could be obtained. 

But "man proposeth, God disposeth." "My thoughts 
are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, 
saith the Lord: for as the heavens are higher than the 

22 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1815-32. 

earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my 
thoughts than your thoughts." God had "girded" him 
for a far higher and nobler work than that which he had 
chosen for himself, though as yet "he did not know 
Him." Before all the certificates had arrived, and while 
yet the last of them was impatiently waited for, a change 
had taken place in the spirit of his mind, which translated 
him at once as into a new world and gave a new direc 
tion to his whole after-life. The extant memorials of the 
memorable event are not abundant, but explicit and 
deeply interesting. "While William was at Aberdeen," 
writes an elder sister, "a great change had come over our 
eldest sister, who from a life of gaiety in Edinburgh 
during two winters, was turned most decidedly with her 
face Zionwards, and left Edinburgh for ever. She returned 
to our quiet manse, desiring, whatever others did, that she 
might serve the Lord; and from this service she never 
drew back, but her path was as the shining light shining 
more and more until the perfect day at Pesth, iSth 
February, 1865 when she passed into glory. I think 
the year 1831 was a year of grace in our family. I re 
member we began a practice of reading aloud between 
dinner and tea some religious book. Bridges on the 
IIQ/// Psalm was with our sister a special favourite, and 
means of grace. On these occasions dear William, to 
our sorrow, without saying a word always slipped out, and 
he was to our view the least likely subject of grace in the 
family. He always vehemently rejected the idea of being 
a minister, and said he wished to be a lawyer, because he 
saw lawyers rich and with fine houses. Oh! what a 

JEt. 1-17.] THE GREAT CHANGE. 23 

contrast his after-life was to this ! for one more conformed 
to his Saviour, in self-denial and in voluntary poverty, the 
world has never seen at least one who was all this, 
without false asceticism or self-righteous pride. 

"When, in this spirit, William went to Edinburgh to be 
bound apprentice to our uncle A. with the view of being 
a W.S., we mourned over him as one going to be bound 
to the world; and this view seemed to have come over his 
own mind when he found the different kind of society he 
was thrown into, from what he left behind in the manse. 
A joint letter we wrote him, to which he often afterwards 
referred as one of the chief means of awakening him, has 
passed from my mind, and a single sentence quoted from 
it in a letter of his which still remains is all that is left. 
The first dawn of hope regarding him is to be found in a 
letter of date 5th December, 1831, in which the following 
for him remarkable words occur, I am extremely obliged 
to you for your excellent letter, also to papa, and I look 
forward to our correspondence as a thing that shall afford 
me great pleasure when I am fairly settled away from that 
dear home where I have enjoyed so many happy days, 
and where in all likelihood I shall never be resident 
again. I wish you would recommend me to, or send me 
some good religious reading. This request astonished 
us, and I think we sent him Boston s Fourfold State. 
Very soon after this he suddenly and unexpectedly walked 
in one evening into the dining-room at the old manse, 
with a graver look than was his. wont; and in answer to 
our mother s exclamation, Oh! Willie, where have you 
come from? his answer was gravely, From Edinburgh. 

24 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1815-32. 

How did you come? I walked [a distance of 36 
miles]. There was then a silence, and standing on the 
hearth-rug, with his back to the fire, he said, What 
would you think, mamma, if I should be a minister after 
all? His countenance showed that he was speaking in 
earnest, and he then told openly how the Lord had 
arrested him, and that he had no rest in his spirit till he 
should come home and obtain his parents consent to 
relinquish the law and give himself to the service of Jesus 
in the ministry of the gospel. The inner history of this 
wonderful change you have in his own diary this is as I 
saw it; and far distant as is the day, I remember it vividly, 
and my feeling was that I was standing in the presence 
of a miracle. I could not contain my feelings, but rushed 
along the long passage which led to our father s study, and 
shutting the door threw myself on my knees and wept. 
After being a short time at home, he returned to Edin 
burgh with our parents joyful consent to his being what 
they had long wished and prayed for a minister of the 
everlasting gospel. By a singular providence he was free 
to do so. He had not been bound apprentice, owing to a 
delay in the arrival of one of his certificates of attendance 
at college; and it was during this interval that the whole 
current of his life was changed. It may be right to add 
that William had been all along, so far as ever known to 
me, perfectly free from all outward vice. I never knew 
of an act of duplicity or a bad word. This I think is 
important to be mentioned, as from his deep views of sin, 
he during all the course of his spiritual life spoke of him 
self in such terms of self-loathing, that those unacquainted 

JEt. 1-17.] THE GREAT CHANGE. 25 

with the facts might naturally suppose that he had been 
turned to God from a life of open sin, as indeed is broadly 
hinted in an Aberdeen document recently given to the 
world." 1 

Such was the event so far as it could be seen from the 
outside, even by those who stood the nearest to it. 
Happily we have another and still more authentic record 
of it from his own hand a solemn deposition as before 
God, in regard to a sacred secret, over which before man 
he ever cast the veil of a deep and reverent reserve. It 
was drawn forth by a sudden gush of reminiscence, when, 
ten years afterwards, and after his own new life had be 
come the germ of similar life to thousands of other souls, 
he unexpectedly found himself, in the course of a solitary 
evening walk, in the midst of those scenes which were 
linked to him with such infinite and deathless memories: 

"Edin., Tuesday, Nov. 16, 1841. To-day I was chiefly 
occupied, as far as business is concerned, in preparing for 
the press the letters I sent some time ago to the Greenside 
Place school. In taking the air I walked over scenes which 
were indeed fitted to speak aloud of mercy to my favoured 
soul. 1 walked along York Place, and looked up to the 
windows of the room (No. 41, west side, upper flat) where, 

1 It may be of more importance for me to state that my own 
thorough belief is in entire accordance with that here expressed. As 
a brother nearly of the same age, I had been constantly with him and 
shared his inmost thoughts ; and I always understood from him that 
he had begun to tread those paths of folly which often lead to open 
sin, but never passed over the verge of the precipice. On the con 
trary, he seemed to regard it as a singular mercy from the Lord, that 
the effectual call of grace had come just in time to save him from a 
ruin otherwise, as it seemed to him, inevitable. 

26 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1815-32. 

when reading Pike s Early Piety on a Sabbath afternoon, I 
think about the middle of December, 1831, an arrow from 
the quiver of the King of Zion was shot by his Almighty 
sovereign hand through my heart, though it was hard enough 
to resist all inferior means of salvation. Who can under 
stand the feelings with which I again revisited the spot. 
Alas ! the windows in the roof above met my eye, as the 
place where a few months afterwards (in 1832) poor Uncle 
Alexander died in one day of cholera ! Oh ! what a contrast 
between the scenes of mercy and judgment exhibited by God 
in places so near each other ! From this I walked down and 
revisited my old lodgings, No. 69 Broughton Place, where my 
earliest days as a child of grace were spent, and where first 
the Spirit of God shone with full light upon the glory of 
Jesus as a Saviour for such as I was. This was, I think, 
about the 7th of January, 1832. Although it was then, 
I remember, that the light of God first shone fully and 
transportingly on his word, and into my heart, I was never 
from the beginning, three weeks before, in utter darkness, 
but felt that God had been always willing to save me, that 
I was a self-murderer, and that now He was in his own 
sovereignty touching my heart and drawing me to himself for 
his own glory ; and again, though about the time mentioned, 
I remembered to have beheld transporting wonders in God s 
law, yet my peace following on this was far different indeed 
from a settled quiet frame of mind. I had many fears and 
many awful struggles with sin and Satan, and many sleepless 
nights of mingling joy and fear, and faith and hope, and 
love. Ebenezer! Halleluiah! Halleluiah! Amen. 

" Wednesday. Yesterday morning I breakfasted with Mr. 
Bruce, and this morning with Mr. Brown (C. J. B.); on both 
occasions we had interesting conversations. Mr. Bruce 
seemed pleased to be reminded of old events, and pro 
mised to give me the dates of several sermons which I was 
benefited by when preached. The means by which my 
change of heart was brought about were these, I think Mr. 

jEt.i-17.] "REMEMBERING THE WAY." 27 

Bruce s preaching, which engaged me much, and the fear of 
sudden death from the approach of cholera, were preparatory. 
A letter from my sisters at home, in which they spoke in a 
single sentence of going as pilgrims to Zion, and leaving me 
behind, proved a word in season and touched my natural 
feelings very deeply ; for when sin had rendered me dead to 
every other feeling, I could not think of my Christian parents, 
and my godly home with all its sweet and solemn privileges, 
without an awful conflict of soul at the thought of parting 
with them for ever. I could think of parting with Christ, for 
I knew him not alas! do I yet know him? but to part 
with them was too much for me to bear. In this way the 
way was prepared, but as yet I am fully conscious that my 
heart was spiritually dead. However the set time came. I sat 
down, with solemn impressions arising from the causes now 
mentioned, to read a part of Pike s Early Piety, which my 
dear father had given me at leaving home ; (Ah ! little did 
he know what use God was to make of it, little did the 
author of that solemn treatise know one of the purposes for 
which he wrote it ;) and in one moment, while gazing on a 
solemn passage in it, my inmost soul was in one instant 
pierced as with a dart. God had apprehended me. I felt 
the conviction of my lost estate rushing through me with 
resistless power ; I left the room and retired to a bedroom, 
there to pour out my heart for the first time with many tears 
in a genuine heart-rending cry for mercy. From the first 
moment of this wonderful experience I had the inspiring 
hope of being saved by a sovereign and infinitely gracious 
God ; and in the same instant almost I felt that I must leave 
my present occupation, and devote myself to Jesus in the 
ministry of that glorious gospel by which I had been saved. 
From that day to this, blessed be Jehovah, I have been con 
scious more or less deeply of the possession of a new and 
holy principle, leading me to live by the faith of Jesus to the 
glory of God, and in the communion of the Holy Ghost. 
Salvation unto our God, who sitteth on the throne, and unto 
the Lamb!" 

28 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1815-32. 

The only other extant memorial of this eventful time 
is contained in the following letter to his sisters, written 
soon after his unexpected visit to Kilsyth, and which is 
the first surviving blossom of the new life that had 
dawned upon him: 

"Edinburgh, February 2otk, 1832. MY DEAR SISTERS, 
. . . . I feel it often a great encouragement to me to 
persevere in that life upon which I have entered, that I do 
not make for heaven alone; but though there be few that find 
the strait gate and the narrow way, yet that my nearest 
and dearest friends upon earth are my fellow-pilgrims to the 
heavenly Canaan. Let us encourage and exhort one another 
in following and trusting in the Lamb who was slain, and 
who now intercedes for all who trust in him, at the right 
hand of the Father. I have been apt, as is I believe the 
case with many young Christians, to make my safety depend 
upon my feelings, and consequently to feel miserable when 
not engaged in religious exercises, and to despise in some 
degree the ordinary business of life ; but I have for some 
time past been coming to juster and more stable views. 
I had another conversation with Mr. Bruce about a week 
ago; I was as much as on the former occasion delighted 
with him, and I trust edified. He had two admirable dis 
courses last Sabbath (yesterday), the one a lecture from the 
7th and 8th verses of the 6th of Matthew, and the other from 
Ephesians, 3d chapter and I2th verse, In whom we have 
boldness, &c. They were both very much suited to my 

state, and I trust I was much benefited by them 

Mr. Moody and I are on the most intimate terms ; he is one 
of the few that live near to God. . . . 

"If the Lord spare us all, I look forward to the happiest 
meeting that ever we have had. We are now, my dearest 
sisters, linked together by a new tie, being members of the 
same body, and the children of the Almighty, our Father in 
heaven : but till then let us pray daily to Him for one another, 

JEt. 1-17.] FIRST LOVE. 29 

and seek a nearer communion with Him to whom we have 
access with confidence by the blood of Jesus. Let not the 
question be with us, How near must we be to him in order 
to insure our safety? but how much communion can we pos 
sibly attain to while here on earth. This is not our home, 
for we are dead, and our life is hid with Christ in God. 
When He who is our life shall appear, then shall we also 
appear with Him in glory. What a hope is this, That our 
eyes shall see Him, and that we shall dwell with Him for 
ever and ever! He now makes intercession for us at the 
Father s right hand. May we be kept by the POWER of 
God through faith unto salvation. Let us have but one 
object in view, the kingdom of heaven, and all other neces 
sary things shall be added unto us. All things shall work 
together for the eternal good of them that love God, and we 
must wait upon the Lord that he may give us this love. 
There is no object in this world, the contemplation of which 
is an adequate employment for that immortal and divine 
principle in us the soul, except the character of the Lord 
of Hosts; with the contemplation of which, although we 
were to devote our entire lives, yet would we be compelled 
to exclaim, Thou art past finding out; and this is the God 
to whom we approach with so little humility and contrition 
of soul. How wonderful that he should not only listen to us 
when we call on Him, but condescend to work in us by his 
Holy Spirit exciting us to draw near unto Him. We ought 
to strive to bring our fellow-creatures to a knowledge of their 
state, and of the mercy that is freely offered them : it is truly 
an awful thought, that any one to whom the gospel is pro 
claimed should go down to that lake that burneth with fire 
and brimstone for ever. People are apt to think themselves 
independent creatures, and that none has a right to their 
services ; but if we do not take God s mercy in Christ Jesus, 
we must take His wrath. I pity most of all those whom we 
call decent people, who, although they will hardly believe it, 
are in as unsafe a state as the openly profligate, as they 

30 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1815-32. 

do not build on Christ as the foundation. . . . The 
cholera is going on here though slowly, and I hope we mry 
all be mercifully spared ; but let us endeavour to say from 
the heart, The will of the Lord be done. I have a letter to 
ready, which I expect to have an opportunity of for 
warding this week. Let us pray earnestly for him, that the 
Lord would open his heart to the truth ; that we may go all 
on togetJier to that blessed country to which Christ has 
purchased an admittance for all who trust in and follow Him. 
I cannot tell you all nor any of my thoughts on paper, but 
wait for a meeting with you, if the Lord will. Till then fare 
well. I remain, my dearest sisters, your truly affectionate 
brother, WM. C. BURNS." 

He remained still for a short time in the office of his 
uncle, who had already formed an exalted estimate of his 
ability and aptitude for business, and of his prospects of 
future success, and who parted from him with unfeigned 

In the "course of the summer he returned to Kilsyth, 
and by the beginning of November he was once more in 
Aberdeen, to resume the broken thread of his studies, 
with a view to the ministry of the Church of Scotland. 



MY brother s remaining years of study at Aberdeen 
present nothing particularly worthy of record, 
except a visibly heightened tone of earnestness and 
energy in all his work, due to the higher motives and 
principles which now inspired him. A true Christian, he 
became more than ever an earnest student. Having 
learned to be faithful in that which is much, he became 
faithful as never before in that which is least. The 
result was seen in the higher place taken by him in all 
his classes, and in the University distinctions which began 
more than ever to crowd upon him. In his third year he 
was awarded the first place of honour in the senior 
mathematical class, and in the next following session he 
gained by public competition, along with another who 
was bracketted with him, the mathematical scholarship, 
then and for long afterwards the highest attainable 
distinction in the University; while in all the other 
branches of study he held a distinguished place. In 
other and higher matters meanwhile, he held on his 
constant way not of course in a path of unclouded sun 
shine and uninterrupted progress, but consistently and 

32 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1832-39. 

steadfastly. The fresh and blessed experience which had 
attended his entrance on the spiritual life had indeed 
passed away, and been succeeded by an ebb of feeling 
over which he bitterly mourned; but the holy stream, 
fed by an inexhaustible spring, was never dried up, or 
ceased to flow in a strong and steady current. His 
religion, indeed, at this time was rather calm, serious, 
strict, and resolutely conscientious, than specially ardent 
and exalted; characterized rather by unflinching deci 
sion and strength of principle, than by any peculiar 
elevation of feeling or depth of spiritual experience. His 
life was more of the usual type, and moved more in the 
customary channels of Christian profession and obedi 
ence, than in after-years. There seems even to have 
been in him a certain tinge of the artificial and the legal 
a tendency not uncommon with young disciples when 
called openly to confess Christ in the presence of those 
who have known them before in the days of their 
ignorance, to maintain a higher standard of outward 
profession and observance than is fully sustained by the 
state of the heart within. Of this he bitterly accuses 
himself in his first letter to his sister after his return to 
Aberdeen, and which is the only surviving fragment of 
his correspondence belonging to this period of his life : 

Aberdeen, Friday, Nov. 16, 1832. . . . "In regard to 
my own state of mind, I can say little that is pleasing. 
When I came here my spiritual state was very low, but I 
hoped that the necessity which I knew there was of my 
walking carefully would, by God s blessing, have had a 
beneficial effect, making me seek nearness to Him and 
strength for all my emergencies; but I lament to say, I 


have been disappointed. During the first few days after 
my arrival, I am sensible of having been guilty of much 
hypocrisy, striving to make it appear that I was indeed 
converted, while I felt myself to be far from God, and acting 
I fear rather for the upholding of my own reputation than 
with a view to the glory of God. I might say much on this 
subject, but feel at this moment that although my entering 
on it is calculated to be beneficial to me, in bringing it more 
immediately before my own mind, and calling forth your 
earnest prayers in my behalf; yet the very feeling o having 
expressed my mind upon this subject may prove a snare to 
me, leading me to suppose that I have retraced my steps to 
the Cross of Christ, while I remain in reality unwilling to 
become His wholly and His only. May the Lord in His 
great mercy teach me my real character, and lead me to 
some just conception of His perfect holiness and hatred of 
sin, that I may prize as I ought that salvation which He has 
provided, and be made to count all things but loss for the 
excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus ! The counsel 
and sympathy of dear friends are then especially effective 
when they are absent; for as we delight to think of again 
meeting after being for a time separated, our views are 
directed to that blessed abode where alone there is a 
security of -our dwelling in sweet and uninterrupted com 

The state of mind thus expressed will not be difficult 
of comprehension to any who like him, after a spiritual 
crisis of more than usual decisiveness, have descended all 
at once to the common level of ordinary practical life. 
Clearly the views and convictions which then opened on 
his soul remained unchanged, but the fresh impressions 
and strong emotions which had given life and force to 
them had for the moment passed away. He still thought 
as justly, but he felt less intensely, and therefore moved 

34 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1832-39. 

and acted less buoyantly. He was faint, but he was still 
pursuing the same high end, and held his face unswerv 
ingly in the same direction. They who thus wait on the 
Lord, even though they may for a season faint and be 
weary, shall renew their strength. Though like the 
moulting bird they may droop as if ready to die, a new 
life will soon stir within them, and bear them upwards as 
on eagles wings. Even in the dead calm and when the 
loose sails hang idly down, let us remember still the 
haven whither we are going, and turn our eyes ever wist 
fully thither, and the heavenly gales will surely soon 
return. How eminently this was so in the case of the 
subject of this memoir we shall in the sequel see. Even 
now the declension over which he mourned was more 
apparent than real rather the mere transition from the 
flush of the morning to the light of common day, than 
any actual retrogression or even obscuration of the Sun. 
Meanwhile the light that was in him, dim and feeble as 
it seemed to himself, was not darkened, and could not be 
hid from others. " My mind," says Dr. Murray Mitchell, 
an old class-fellow, and now missionary of the Free 
Church of Scotland at Calcutta, "goes back to Aberdeen, 
and 1829, or rather November, 1828, when I first became 
acquainted with your brother. We were class-fellows, at 
school and college, for three years. He then discon 
tinued attending college for a year, with the intention 
I think of giving himself to the study of law. When he 
returned to Aberdeen he was an altered man. He came 
back full of holy earnestness, having in the meantime 
sustained the greatest revolution of which the spirit of 


man is susceptible, and seeking now every opportunity 
to converse with his old companions regarding Christ 
and His salvation." With this statement my own re 
collections of this period entirely accord. It was a time 
with him, I think, of steady, though not of marked or 
conspicuous progress. He was earnest and decided in 
his Christian profession beyond the standard of most, 
but still according to the ordinary style of the Christians 
of that time; nor had that overmastering sense of eternal 
things and of the infinite worth of souls, which at an after 
period carried him beyond all the barriers of conventional 
rule, and could be bound by no restraints but the clear 
and eternal laws of God, yet manifested itself. 

Taking his degree with honourable distinction in 1834, 
he proceeded in the winter of that year to the University 
of Glasgow, with the view of prosecuting his further studies 
for the ministry there. The intellectual life of that ancient 
and famed seat of learning was in those days, so far at 
least as the public teaching was concerned, rather more 
conspicuous in the literary than in the theological depart 
ment. The revered professor of divinity, Dr. Stevenson 
Macgill, had by that time fallen into the "sere and 
yellow leaf," and no longer exercised that effective 
influence over the minds of his pupils which he had done 
in earlier years. The air of the church history class 
was indescribably slumbrous, and reminded one now 
of Spenser s Cave of Morpheus and now of Bunyan s 
Enchanted Ground; while our Hebrew studies were 
superintended by a professor of much intelligence cer 
tainly, but who knew almost nothing of Hebrew, and 

36 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1832-39. 

opened his course rather significantly by an elaborate 
refutation of the vowel-points. In the literary and philo 
sophical departments again all was life and energy; and 
there was altogether, I think, about the place more of a 
true academic spirit than existed at that time anywhere 
else in Scotland. In the Greek class-room, especially, 
under the most fascinating and eloquent of teachers, Sir 
Daniel K. Sandford, there was an element of high enthu 
siasm which no one then at the University can have for 
gotten, and of which old pupils still speak with a rapture 
that almost looks like extravagance. The very music of 
his voice as he read the sounding lines of Homer, apart 
even from the brilliant translation and the rich feast of 
illustrative commentary and apt quotation, was a thing to 
go and hear. Within this charmed circle my brother was 
soon drawn, and supplemented by two successive sessions 
in Sandford s senior class the more elementary studies of 
his undergraduate course. At the same time the more 
proper work of the divinity hall was not neglected. If 
there was little life in the class-room there was great life in 
the library, and around it. There were men at the hall at 
that time who were not likely to suffer any society of which 
they were members to sink into stagnation and ennui 
such as James Halley, James Hamilton, William Arnot, 
Norman Macleod, with others of kindred spirit, though less 
widely known. No doubt, however, the systematic study 
of scientific theology must have suffered greatly from the 
want of the due direction and stimulus. What was done 
in the way of special lines of reading, in connection with 
a class exercise or a University prize theme, was rather 

Mt. 17-24.] COLLEGE FRIENDS. 37 

occasional and spasmodic, than methodical and sustained. 
Such incidental calls, however, to studious application 
my brother promptly obeyed, and improved most strenu 
ously. Returning from Aberdeen about the middle of 
April, after completing my own undergraduate course, I 
found him still in his rooms in Glasgow, working at the 
last of a long series of prize essays on Old Testament 
subjects for the Hebrew class, in which he had main 
tained a strenuous competition with another student 
throughout the entire winter; and either in this or in a 
subsequent session he devoted much thought and labour 
to an essay on the characteristics of Hellenistic Greek 
for a University medal, which he was fortunate enough 
to obtain. Altogether it quite struck me, that the atmos 
phere of student life in which he was now living was 
decidedly of a more living and stimulating kind than 
that which I had left behind. In the higher matters of 
the spirit it undoubtedly was so. Not only was there 
a higher tone of religious earnestness among the better 
part of the students generally, but there were among 
them individual instances of eminent devotedness and 
rare elevation of character, which could not fail to tell 
with quickening effect on others, and especially on one 
whom divine grace had made so susceptible to such 
impressions. Amongst these, besides James Hamilton, I 
would particularly mention the names of James Dennis- 
ton, a fellow-student of his own in the divinity hall, and 
Charles Birrel, then an undergraduate in the University, 
and since an eminent minister of the Baptist communion 
in England. With these, and with other junior students 

38 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1832-39. 

whom in after-years he gathered more and more around 
him, he spent many hallowed hours of sweet communion in 
conference and in prayer, at once provoking and himself 
provoked to love and unto good works. Other influences 
there were working towards the same result, and which 
contributed to render this period an era in his spiritual 
progress, two of which I would especially commemorate. 
The one was the peculiar and powerful ministry of the 
Rev. John Duncan, then of Milton Church, Glasgow, and 
subsequently professor of oriental languages in the New 
College, Edinburgh, which during the two last years of 
his residence took a more and more fast hold of him, and 
opened to him deeper views of divine truth and more 
solemn aspects of the Christian calling and discipleship 
than he had known before. "One soweth and another 
reapeth;" one forges the weapon of steel, another gives it 
its last tempering and its keen sharp edge. And so it was 
ordered of God that this singular instrument of his grace, 
who at the beginning and further progress of his spiritual 
course had been helped onward by other able ministers 
of the word, should receive his last touch of preparation 
for his great work from that scribe well instructed in the 
kingdom of God. 1 Certainly at least it seems to me, in 
the retrospect of those days, as if every Sabbath spent by 
him in Milton Church had been as a day in Patmos, and 
every sermon almost as an opening of the gate of heaven. 

1 Besides Dr. Brace, he had attended and much valued the ministry 
successively of Dr. John Murray, of the North Church, Aberdeen, 
Dr. Nathaniel Paterson, of St. Andrew s Church, and Dr. John 
Forbes, of St. Paul s Church, Glasgow. 


The other influence was that of the Students Missionary 
Society in the University of Glasgow, of which he was 
throughout an active and zealous, and latterly a leading and 
influential member. That was a sort of focus and rallying 
point of everything that was most earnest and Christian 
both in the divinity hall and in the undergraduate classes of 
the University; drew good men together, and placed the 
weak side by side with the strong; brought home to us 
by essay or discussion, or through the well-worn volumes 
of our library, the shining examples of missionary faith 
and heroism the Martyns and Brainerds of the past, 
the Marshmans and Duffs of the present till our hearts 
burned within us, and we longed to go forth and mix 
ourselves with life, in the great battle that was going on 
in the church and in the world around. Here my 
brother was ever peculiarly at home, and breathed an 
element which was to him more than any other con 
genial and inspiring. It was here, and especially while 
listening to the weighty and earnest words of a missionary 
about to sail for China, 1 that he first rose to the full idea 
of that entire and absolute consecration of his whole 
being and life to the service of Christ, which in his sub 
sequent ministry so remarkably distinguished him, as well 
as formed his first definite purpose of devoting himself to 
the missionary field. 

Almost the only written memorials of this period are 
contained in a brief correspondence with one of those 
sisters who stood, as we have seen, in so close a relation 

1 Dr. James Kalley, who was however prevented by the state 
of his health from fulfilling his purpose. 

40 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1832-39. 

to the beginning of his spiritual life; but these will be 
read with interest, both as illustrating some of the state 
ments now made, and as marking generally the growing 
earnestness and solemnity of his views and feelings. 
Most of them are without date, except that of the day 
of the week; but I arrange them as far as possible 
chronologically, as they seem to me by internal indica 
tions to date themselves. The first was written, as the 
date shows, in the first year of his residence in Glasgow. 
The rest probably all belong to the last : 

"DEAR JANE, The. accompanying packet arrived a few 
days ago from Paisley. Expecting it some time previously, I 
had prepared a few lines for you, to accompany it ; but I 
waited in vain and this among other causes has prevented 
me from sooner writing you. I am obliged to do so at 
present very hurriedly, but perhaps the principal interest of 
anything I might say would be owing to its coming from 
a brother who remembers you and a brother at homej^ and 
the merest note may serve this purpose. 

"Dr. Macgill, after an illness that confined him nearly four 
weeks, resumed his labours a few days ago, and is now pro 
ceeding with all the vigour that is compatible with advanced 
age and great weakness. But we are not just dependent on 
his lectures for a profitable employment of our time, and the 
loss we sustained by his temporary absence is not so material 
as a stranger might imagine. I am attending, besides Dr. 
Macgill, the professor of Hebrew Dr. Fleming, an interesting 
and excellent teacher. And in addition to this, I am study 
ing French under Dr. Gerlach of the high-school. I should 
consider him a very admirable teacher, and I hope I am 
making some progress under him 

Glasgow p , December 24^, 1834. 

1 His sister was then in London. 

jt. 17-24.] CORRESPONDENCE. 41 

" MY DEAR JANE, I am sorry, as usual, to be obliged to 
despatch the basket in so great a hurry as to prevent me 
answering as I could have wished your very pleasing note. 
It is indeed hard to be truly serious and interesting, while it 
is easy to be morose and dull, in the service of God ; yet still 
we must not desist from an ardent pursuit of our high and 
holy calling, because of the difficulties which, from an utterly 
depraved heart and blinded understanding, it is encompassed 
with. Let us in this as in all things commit in humble but 
earnest faith our way to the Lord, and he will direct our 
steps not thinking on the one hand that we can have too 
deep an impression of the value of immortal souls, and the 
danger in which we all naturally are, if it is counterbalanced 
on the other by a view of the glorious remedy, and the full 
ness and certainty of the Christian s inheritance. O that 
we might live nearer to God, and then indeed if our manner 
may appear for a little less natural, it will become at length 
naturally serious and heavenly ! I have had a very dull and 
unfruitful week, have been conscious of more heart-atheism 
than I remember of feeling, but am now, I trust, desiring in 
some measure that this discovery of my utter depravity may 
by God s sovereign and precious grace be blessed to make 
me more humble and more grateful to the adorable Redeemer, 
who for such vile creatures as we descended so infinitely low 
and bore so much. 

" I think highly of your scheme of Sabbath teaching, and 
hope that you will be greatly honoured and supported in it. 
Your affectionate brother, WAI. C. BURNS. 

"Rothesay, Thursday. MY DEAR JANE, 1 have from 
various causes delayed till this time writing home, in expecta 
tion, before } s arrival, of every day seeing some of you; and 

since then, waiting the opportunity of his return home. And 
now when the time has arrived, I am disappointed to find 
that, owing partly to other engagements in the evening, and 

partly to a doubt whether or not would go to-morrow 

morning, I must take to my desk when I should retire to rest. 

42 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1832-39. 

I cannot however think of allowing him to go without some 
little supplement to the intelligence which I have no doubt 
he will retail among you for days to come. 

"I have been enjoying Rothesay, since I saw you, in an 
unusual degree, the weather being so fine, and my health, in 
the great kindness of God, unimpaired. Nor can I reckon 
among the least of the present sources of pleasure the 
duties in which of course my time is a good deal occupied. 
I have an interesting little charge here, and one which I 
think I have increasing cause to feel at once responsible and 
engaging. I have this season the privilege, obtained by 

request from Mr. , of joining with my pupils in the 

morning exercise of reading a portion of Scripture and 
prayer, which gives a new facility for bringing to bear on 
their minds and hearts the religious influence which God 
may enable me to employ, and accustoms them by practice 
to a duty which, imperative and fundamental as it is, they 
are unfortunately not yet otherwise acquainted with. I have 
many pleasing tokens, had I time to enter into particulars, 
of such an interest in all my pupils in those truths which 
must decide their eternity, as hang one between hope and 
fear on their account, and demand on my part a diligence 
and prayerfulness, which, now that I record this truth before 
me, I find, more than ever, I grievously want. O that I had 
grace to occupy my present little talent, instead of looking 
forward to a larger sphere, for when may I expect to be faith 
ful if not now, and may I not here be privileged in Jehovah s 
infinite loving-kindness, if ever I shall be so honoured, to 
tend the lambs of the fold of Jesus ? it is unbelief and not 
faith, I find, that discourages the ambition. Let us provoke 
one another, my dear sister, to love and to good works ; let 
us be steadfast in our efforts and instant in our prayers, and 
never forget, for your encouragement in the service of our 
Divine Master, that if I have ever yet known the precious faith 
of God s elect, it was a letter from you and Margaret, in 
which I remember you spoke of being pilgrims to a better 

JEt. 17-24.] PRESSING FORWARD. 43 

country/ that was first blessed to rouse me from the uncon 
cern of an ungodly state. 

" I wrote some time ago and have had a letter in reply. 

His circumstances appear, from his account, in many re 
spects very favourable for his improvement. 

- appears to have enjoyed his short stay with me 
exceedingly, and we have been very happy together. He is 
a boy of very warm heart, solid and in the main thoughtful ; 
a hopeful subject of grace he appears to me when I contrast 
his character and impressions of truth, as far as I can see 
these, with my own at a similar age. May the Lord make 
him his own, and prepare him, if it be his holy will, for 
important service in the advancement of his cause ! 

"We have been thinking of you in the enjoyment of your 
New Testament feast. In the strength of this food may you 
have grace to go many days. And now farewell, my dear 
Jane, and give my filial and brotherly regards to all at home 
and at Croy. Ever yours, WM. C. BURNS. 

" Wednesday, i6th Sept. 1838. MY DEAR JANE, I hope 
you will not misinterpret my conduct in not answering your 
note on Saturday. The subject to which it referred was of 
too important and solemn a nature to be lightly and hastily 
noticed, and I desired, first, to give special thanks to the 
Lord for his inviting us to correspondence on such topics; 
and, next, to seek by prayer and fasting to obtain light from 
his Word, expounded by the Holy Spirit, to guide me in 
regard to them. The time to write you has arrived, and my 
conscious deadness and spiritual blindness form a new argu 
ment to convince me of the need I have of using more 
vigorous and regular means for obtaining that advancement 
in the knowledge of Christ which can alone fit me to be an 
instrument in his hand for the advancement of his kingdom 
in the world. 

"I am almost afraid to speak of some things, which, I 
believe in common with yourself, my convictions have for 
some time approved of as indispensable means of our growth 

44 LI FE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1832-39. 

in grace my practice of these has been so irregular, and, at 
best, so far behind even my own dark and partial views 
regarding them. Yet it is the spirit of pride and legal hope, 
I am aware, that makes me shrink from these as if from a 
broken covenant, instead of casting myself again as an 
undone transgressor on the free covenant of promise; that 
in me henceforth Christ may live, and regulate all things 
according to his own good pleasure, and for his own glory ! 

"The great fundamental error then, as far as I can see, in 
the economy of the Christian life, which many, and alas! I 
for one commit, is that of having too few and too short 
periods of solemn retirement with our gracious Father and 
his adorable Son Jesus Christ. It is, we well know, when 
meditating in secret on his Word, when examining our 
hearts in his holy and omniscient but fatherly and gracious 
presence, when pouring out our complaint before him, and 
seeking to utter the praises of his glorious character and 
works it is in these exercises that we come to know, through 
the teaching of the Spirit, our natural darkness, depravity, 
and vileness, and that the glorious Sun of Righteousness 
arises upon our souls with healing in his wings, giving light 
to us who sit in darkness and in the region and shadow of 
death. The communion of the saints in Christian converse 
is indeed important, nay, indispensable to the growth of the 
new man when it can be obtained, but when is it sweet and 
soul-reviving but when each brings out into the common 
store something of the heavenly food which he has been 
gathering in the closet? Whenever the holy, heavenly light 
of a Christian deportment is seen in any one, when we hear 
him bringing forth from a full heart some of the glorious 
things of the kingdom, we ought then to learn the lesson 
that he has been with Jesus, and to go in like manner to Him 
that we too may obtain this living water to be in us as a well 
of water springing up unto everlasting life. I have alluded 
to this subject in connection with your proposal, which I 
would hail with joy, for united prayer, because it strikes me 

JEt. 17-24.] UNIONS FOR PRAYER. 45 

from what I have felt that our object will be best attained by 
our stimulating each other to greatly increased fidelity in 
these regular and acknowledged means, instead of first 
adopting any special measure, which is only a burden and 
an impediment, except when it is like an additional channel 
dug for the conveyance of the waters which are overflowing 
their ordinary banks. O that our private and personal 
covenanting with the Lord were more frequent and regular ! 
This would form some basis for united efforts in his service ; 
but without it I fear we are in danger of neglecting the Lord s 
own ordinance for means of our own devising. For myself 
then, dear Jane, I intend to-morrow, D.V., solemnly to review 
my duty in the private exercises of God s worship, in the 
light of his Word ; and may he grant it, of his Holy Spirit, 
that I may, by his promised grace, be humbled before him 
for past neglect of his blessed appointments, and resolve, in 
his strength, henceforth to keep his statutes, not as a 
servant for his wages, but as a son from love to his Father s 
presence and his Father s laws. It will serve the end of 
these lines, dear sister, if they be a link in a chain of 
correspondence between us regarding the work of God in our 
own hearts, and around us. Such a correspondence I much 
desire, and much more need ; and I am satisfied that had I 
been earlier thus engaged, I would have been more fruitful 
in the glorious work of the Lord, and have written, not as 
now I do to my shame, about the things of God with so 
ignorant a mind and so cold a heart. O may the love of 
Christ constrain us to live no more as our own, but as 
manifestly his! This is the motive that will carry us with 
a rejoicing heart through tribulations and distresses for his 
name s sake ; and make us count all things but loss that we 
may win Christ and be found in Him, clothed upon with his 
spotless righteousness, and filled with his Holy Spirit. And 
now, desiring that the Lord Jesus may manifest himself to you 
in his surpassing beauty and matchless grace and love, 
I remain your affectionate brother, WM. C. BURNS. 

46 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1832-39. 

"P.S. I expect to hear from you soon. Let us be free, 
faithful, and affectionate, and seek to taste the excellence of 
living habitually what we -write from time to time, W. C. B. 

MY DEAR JANE, I would not write you so paltry a note, 
were it not that writing to - - has exhausted my time, and 
I cannot let another opportunity pass without thanking you 
for your kind and interesting letter, which I have not yet 
acknowledged ; and expressing my desire that your mid-day 
period of solemn retirement may be specially regarded of the 
Lord, and that you may obtain new and remarkable com 
munications of the Holy Spirit in all his vivifying and com 
forting power. I enjoyed my late visit very much, though, 
had we been alone, it might have been spent in closer inter 
course on the things of .the Spirit, and in special approaches 
to the throne of divine grace, and thus have been rendered 
more stimulating to us all. Mr. Denniston, I hope, will see 
you on Friday, and I hope that, through the presence of the 
Lord, his parting visit may be eminently blessed to your 
growth in the excellent knowledge of Christ. 

" I am asking, though alas ! with little becoming solicitude, 
whether the present is to be added to the list of our almost 
Christless sacraments. Would that the Lord would pour 
out on us the Spirit as in former days, and bring his saints 
into close and ravishing fellowship with himself! Whither 
is our beloved gone? ; Why tarry the wheels of his 
chariot? Wilt thou not revive us again, that thy people 
may rejoice in thee? ; 

"In earnest expectation of his coming, let us wait day and 
night, and he will at last arrive to our infinite amazement 
and eternal rejoicing. 

"My love in Christ Jesus to dear Charlotte, and believe me, 
your affectionate brother, WM. C. BURNS. 

"Wednesday ijth, 1838. MY DEAR JANE, I would have 
sent the basket sooner, but could not find the time necessary 
for despatching it ; and I hope that we shall get it returned 
not later than this day week. 



"None of us have been able to get out to Paisley as yet, but 
I heard of them yesterday. They are all, it would seem, well, 

with the exception of Aunt , who I hear is confined 

to bed with cold, and is still troubled with her arm, which 
does not seem to mend rapidly. I paid a most delightful 

visit to Uncle I slay s the other evening, when Mr. , 

their new minister, was there, and expounded in a manner 
remarkably interesting and impressive. He seems indeed 
a very uncommon Christian, and has made me feel in some 
degree my own miserable ignorance in the excellent know 
ledge of the Son of God. O that I might know Him, and 
the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his 
sufferings, being made conformable to his death ! God for 
bid that we should glory save in the Cross of the Lord Jesus 
Christ, by whom the world is crucified to us, and we to the 
world ! I trust, my dear sister, that you are obtaining some 
advancement in the knowledge of your own vilcness and 
misery, and of the glorious righteousness and atonement of 
Emmanuel, our elder brother. Of such precious knowledge 
I can say little, but I would desire, I trust by the grace of 
the Holy Spirit, to fix the eye continually on Jesus, who is 
the finisher as well as the author of faith, and who will, as 
he is the faithful God, perfect for his own glory that which 
concerned! us. I am approaching, as you know, an era of 
my history, if we except the time of conversion, the most 
important that can occur to a human being in this world 
soon must I offer myself, miserable as I am, to the Church 
of God as a candidate for the work of an evangelist ; and 
still more, that Church must decide, so great is the honour I 
have in prospect, whether in this land or among the perish 
ing heathen it shall be my lot to preach to sinners the 
unsearchable riches of Christ crucified. In the meantime, 

O pray for me, and our dear brother , as I now again 

resolve to pray for you, that, in our present respective 
spheres, we may be always living epistles of Christ, that may 
be known and read of all men, and be even now the means, 

48 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1832-39, 

in the hand of the Spirit of the Lord, of converting sinners 
and edifying believers ! Especially for our dear brother 

let us plead unitedly, that he may be speedily given 

to the Church of God, and thus preserved safe unto the 
heavenly kingdom from those sins and snares of youth which 
have drowned so many in destruction and perdition! 

"We had the privilege of being lately addressed in our 
missionary society by Dr. Kalley of Kilmarnock, a good 
physician/ who is leaving his present practice, which I 
understand is excellent, to consecrate his medical skill to the 
promotion of the cause of Christ in China, a channel which 
seems at present almost the only one open among that 
benighted people, so puffed up by their imagined knowledge 
in almost every branch of science and religion. Though a 
member of our own cnurch, he goes out supported by the 
London Missionary Society, as the Committee of the General 
Assembly did not judge it expedient to extend the field of 
their operations farther east than India. He appears a most 
superior man, calm, but resolved and eager; and being one 
who I am informed was converted some years ago from a 
life of vanity, he seems, especially in prayer, to have obtained 
peculiarly deep views of man s sin, and of the glorious grace 
of God. But I am forced abruptly to conclude, and am, I 
trust, your affectionate brother in Christ, WM. C. BURNS." 

It was with such views, longings, and deep preparation 
of heart that he approached the period of his public 
dedication to the service of Christ in the gospel of his 
grace. The more secret exercises of his soul, in the 
immediate prospect of that event, may be still further 
gathered from the following jottings in a diary which he 
began at this time, and continued, with occasional inter 
ruptions, until the year 1853: 

"September igt/i, 1838. Here, if God spare my life, I intend 
to record from time to time the most memorable incidents 

/Et. 17-24.] BEGINNING OF DIARY. 49 

in my life and in the experience of my heart before God, my 
Judge. Grant me, O my covenant God and Father in 
Christ Jesus ! that it may be, through the light and guidance 
of the Holy Spirit within me, a faithful copy of the truth; 
and that I may be enabled to look on its contents with those 
judgments and feelings which a sight of the unerring record 
of thy book of remembrance will produce within my soul in 
the day of the Lord Jesus. Amen. This day I had the 
great pleasure and profit of meeting at breakfast in his lodg 
ings, Mr. Davidson of the Training School, Inverness, a sin 
gularly advanced and amiable Christian, whose labours have 
been remarkably honoured of the Lord in the island of Coll, 
and for the last twenty years in his present situation. I have 
done very little to-day, but I have seen, I trust, through the 
light of the Spirit, that I am especially deficient in the know 
ledge of the love of Christ, and am mournfully defective even 
in attempting to set this before the unconverted. Yet surely 
this is the truth, the exhibition of which is of all most fitted 
to beget the confidence of an appropriating faith, and to 
manifest the glory of the Lord s justice in visiting with a 
more awful damnation those who perish with Christ in their 
offer. O Lord ! teach thou me to grow daily and hourly in 
the apprehension of thy unspeakable and sovereign love to 
me, a miserable sinner, that I may be constrained, out of the 
abundance of an overflowing heart, continually to commend 
thee to others who need thy love as much as I, and deserve 
it just as little! 

"2U/. These two days have been spent much as usual, and 
with nothing very remarkable, except that, which is most 
extraordinary because most uniform, when we notice it least, 
the continued and unchanging love of God in my preservation 
and support under an hourly increasing load of hell-kindling 
guilt. How needful to be daily plunged anew under the 
crimson tide of Emmanuel s blood, that I may walk in the 
light as God is in the light ! I have studied Hebrew chiefly to 
day, which Mr. Duncan teaches with great skill and activity. 


50 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1832-39. 

Wm. M D s and W s lessons take a long time at 

present. I saw Mr. s brother, a spirit-seller in Calton, 

in bed ; conversed and prayed with him. He seemed very 
ignorant of sin. May the Spirit convince him ! None other 
can awaken truly either him or any other. The work of 
grace is indeed Cod s from beginning to end, and all the 
glory will be his. To his blessed name be praise, through 
Christ Jesus. Amen. 

"23^, Sabbath. This morning rose at 20 minutes to 7 
and met my young men s class from 8 to 9. The attendance 
is increasing, and the prospect interesting. Mr. Duncan 
lectured in the forenoon on James ii. 12. Afternoon I ad 
dressed Mr. Patrick s little flock in St. Enoch s school, from 
John iii. 14, 15 ; and may well learn several important lessons 
from my experience. Last time I addressed the same meet 
ing, a fortnight ago, I had made mere mental preparation, 
but, as I thought, was in some degree supported, and spoke 
with some force and fulness from Hebrews x. 19-22. En 
couraged by this imagined success, I was content with a 
similar preparation to-day; and if the former case encouraged 
presumption, this does not less favour despondency. I felt 
little alive to the subject, my faith almost failed, and I was 
left devoid of conscious love to Christ and compassion for 
perishing souls the affections which would have given fresh 
interest to the subject in my own mind, and have stimulated 
me to go through with its exposition and enforcement ; as it 
was, I lost heart after discoursing for some time on our 
state as dying under the poison of the serpent s sting, and 
I stammered out some other scraps upon the remaining 
glorious topics of the subject, and came to an end, con 
cluding the whole service in an hour and a quarter, instead 
of the two hours of the preceding day. Oh! it is indeed 
an arduous thing to preach from supernatural views of divine, 
supernatural truths. The Lord must give these, or they 
cannot be attained. Yet notwithstanding, arduous prepara 
tion, in dependence on his power, in the closet and study, is, 

JEt. 17-24.] THE LOVE OF CHRIST. 5 1 

J am more fully than ever convinced from to-day s experience, 
absolutely indispensable, at least for me, to prevent contempt 
being thrown upon glorious truths from circumstantials of 
looseness and superficiality which are easily avoided by 
accurate composition. My classes in the evening were fully 
.as pleasant as usual. In explaining to my young class the 
first three verses of the i6th of John, and to the more 
advanced one the subject of divine providence from the 
Catechism, I felt more than usually my faith realizing the 
truth, and in particular experienced something like freedom 
in discoursing of the love of Christ and the freeness of the 
gospel, the subjects which I think I am least of all acquainted 
with, but which it is most important to understand exactly, 
and discourse on with fulness and affection. I speak of 
knowing something of the love of Christ; where is that 
knowledge now? now, when my soul seems to sink back into 
unbelief and carnal ease? Oh Holy Spirit, who dwellest in 
me, if indeed I am a child of God, awaken my soul, and keep 
thou it awake ! Manifest the Lord Jesus Christ within me, 
and grant that his love may continually constrain me to live 
henceforth no more to myself but to Him who died for me, 
.and rose again. Amen. 

" October z$th. (Glasgow sacrament and fast-day.) Since 
last date I have had considerable varieties of outward cir 
cumstances and of inward spiritual experience. The dealings 
of the Lord s providence have been uniformly prosperous, 
and demand the most fervent and unceasing gratitude, which, 
alas ! I have not given, and cannot give, till I receive it of his 
infinite and sovereign grace. I have few remarkable dis 
coveries by the Spirit, either of myself or of the glory of God 
in the face of Jesus Christ/ but I think I have still had some 
advancement, displaying itself in a more staid waiting upon 
God, and finding the mysteries of the gospel more natural to 
>my soul in worship, and in teaching my classes. To-day I 
have been in some degree waiting for the manifestations of 
God, but with little enlargement of spirit in prayer, either for 

52 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1832-39. 

myself or others. At worship I was enabled to speak more 
fully, boldly, and sweetly for the Lord than usual ; but where 
again is that experience now? It is gone ! Alas ! the fogs of 
unbelief and carnal affection seem to be gendered almost by 
the beams of divine glory coming into contact with the marshy 
putrid soil of corrupted nature. That which is born of the 
flesh \sflesh, that alone which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 
I am dependent for every acting of gracious affection on the 
power of the Spirit, as well as for the first production of the 
new nature. How sovereign then, and uncaused by anything 
in me, is the ineffably gracious and blessed love of the 
Godhead ! My classes appear (especially the young women s) 
to be in rather a hopeful state, but ah ! where is my travailing 
in birth till Christ be formed in them? Grant me this, O 
Lord, and then bestow a blessing above all that I can ask 
or think, to the praise of the glory of thy grace in Jesus the 
beloved. Amen." 

Thus was he passing more and more within the deep 
shadow of that great work to which he had devoted his life, 
and the commencement of which was now so nearly ap 
proaching. How solemnly that shadow fell upon him 
may be partly gathered from an incident which was related 
to me recently by one who of all others knew him the 
earliest and the best. She had gone in to Glasgow, 
unknown to him, on some domestic errand, and was 
passing through the narrow covered street called the 
Argyle Arcade, when she saw him turn the corner in 
front, and advance slowly towards her from the opposite 
direction as in deep reverie. Though she went up 
straight to him, he was quite unconscious of her pres 
ence, and started, when addressed, as from a dream. " O 
mother," said he with deep emotion, " I did not see you : 

Mt. 17-24.] LICENSE. 53 

for when walking along Argyle Street just now, I was so 
overcome with the sight of the countless crowds of im 
mortal beings eagerly hasting hither and thither, but all 
posting onwards towards the eternal world, that I could 
bear it no longer, and turned in here to seek relief in 
quiet thought." The great deep had been stirred up 
once more, but by a mightier and more sacred impulse 
than in former days. 

He was licensed to preach the gospel by the presby 
tery of Glasgow on the 2yth day of March, 1839. 




IN the report of the University Missionary Association 
for the year 1838, the seventeenth from its institution, 
I find the following interesting notice : " Gratifying as 
the preceding facts must be regarded, it is with deeper 
gratitude and far higher pleasure that your committee 
intimate the fact that two of their own number, the one 
for two, and the other for four years a member of this 
society, have during the present session publicly offered 
themselves to the church of Christ as missionaries to the 
heathen, and have been accepted. This society has num 
bered among its members not a few who were devoted 
to the same high calling, and it is perhaps probable 
that it has contributed in other cases to foster convic 
tions which afterwards led to a similar dedication; but 
in the present instance it has formed the principal, if not 
the only special, instrument which the Lord of the vine 
yard has employed in calling his professed disciples to 
engage in this the noblest department of his service 
upon earth." 

Of the two here mentioned the subject of this memoir 
was one, the other being, I think, a member of one of the 


nonconformist communions in England, then resident at 
the University, as a scholar on the Williams foundation. 
To his own case my brother makes brief but pregnant 
reference nine years afterwards in a retrospective notice 
in his diary, while at sea on his way to China: "At 
Glasgow University, during the winter 1837-8, I was led, 
from my connection with the College Missionary Associa 
tion, to feel so deeply my personal responsibility in regard 
to the spread of the gospel among the heathen, that after 
much prayer and many solemn exercises of soul, I took 
the solemn step of writing to my father, to request that, if 
he thought good, he should communicate with Dr. Gordon, 
the convener of our India committee, and let him know 
that, should the Church deem me qualified, I would be 
ready to go as a missionary to Hindustan. He did this, 
and the committee having given me encouragement in 
the matter, I looked upon myself as publicly devoted to 
the missionary field. In my own soul, and in all my 
public duties connected with missionary meetings, &c. &c., 
I felt from that time forward a greatly enlarged measure 
of the presence and blessing of God, tending to confirm 
me more deeply in my cherished hope and purpose. 
This was the last session which I needed to spend at 
College to complete my curriculum; but, partly because I 
found myself profitably engaged in study, and still more, 
I believe, because I waited in expectation of a call to the 
missionary field, I remained at College during the following 
winter, and in the spring of 1839 a proposal was made by 
the colonial committee that I should go out for a season 
to fill a charge at St. John s, New Brunswick, and proceed 


direct from America to India when the India committee 
should require me. It was expected that the India com 
mittee would accede to this proposal, but they refused, 
wishing that their agents should be free to go when 
wanted, and so the matter ended. This was at the very- 
time when Mr. M Cheyne, about to set out for Palestine, 
wrote, asking me to take his place at Dundee. I found 
myself unexpectedly free to do this, and being speedily 
licensed I entered on my duties in that memorable field. 
This was at the beginning of April. In the month of June 
or July I received the call that I had long looked for, 
being asked by the India committee to go to Poonah in 
the presidency of Bombay. My engagement at Dundee 
stood in the way of my at once complying, and another 
call which the Jewish committee gave me to go to Aden 
in Arabia increased the difficulty. While asking guidance 
in regard to my duty I went to the communion at Kilsyth 
in July, when the Lord began to employ me in a way so 
remarkable for the awakening of sinners, that in returning 
to Dundee, and finding myself in the midst of a great 
spiritual awakening, I was obliged to make known to 
both committees that, while my views regarding missionary 
work remained unchanged, yet I found that I must for 
the time remain where I was, and fulfil the work which 
God was laying upon me with a mighty hand." 

In giving this extract I have somewhat anticipated the 
course of events in that part of the narrative on which we 
are now entering; but it was necessary to do so, in order 
to present in a clear light the relation in which my 
brother at this time, and for several years thereafter, 


stood towards that great work to which he had solemnly, 
and as he deemed irrevocably, dedicated himself. He had 
given himself deliberately, and in some sense publicly, 
before God and His church, to the service of Christ in 
the field of heathen missions, and he believed the offering 
had been accepted. Having thus lifted up his hand unto 
the Lord, he felt the vows of the great Master upon him 
ever after, and he never drew back or dreamed of draw 
ing back. Their performance was deferred only, not 
relinquished, and deferred not by himself, but by Him to 
whom they had been made, and at whose disposal he had 
wholly and unreservedly placed himself. And so, when 
nine years afterwards the long-expected summons sud 
denly came to him, it found him with the unchanged 
purpose still fresh upon his soul, and ready to march at 
a moment s warning at the great Captain s bidding. 
Meanwhile the field immediately before him was white 
unto the harvest, and he was thrust forth into the midst 
of it by a high and mighty hand. A great work was laid 
upon him which could neither be evaded nor postponed, 
and he had no choice but to give himself wholly to it, 
and to do it with his might. The door opened to him 
was wide and effectual, beyond probably what he had 
ever dreamed. He had indeed, as I distinctly remember, 
very exalted views of what might be expected even in 
these latter days from the outpouring of the Spirit, in 
answer to the earnest prayers of a reviving Church. His 
mind had dwelt much, in common with many others about 
that time, on the divine promises to that effect, and on 
the grand typical fulfilment of them on the day of 


Pentecost. That memorable scene he regarded not as an 
isolated event, but as a pattern of what the Church might 
hope in any age to see, it might be even still more 
gloriously. Even some of the most startling outward 
manifestations of the Spirit s working then displayed he 
regarded not as exceptional circumstances, but as what 
might be repeated any day before our eyes. The cloven 
tongues, and the gift of many languages, had indeed 
passed away, with the age of miracle to which they 
essentially belonged; but the cries of stricken consciences 
and the loud sobs of broken hearts belonged not to that 
age, but to every age, and would, he believed, be heard 
more or less wherever in a congregated multitude of 
sinful men the arrows of the mighty King are sharp in 
the hearts of his enemies. I remember having a discus 
sion with him on this very subject in the course of a 
quiet walk from Glasgow towards our home at Kilsyth, 
shortly before he commenced his work in Dundee. I 
ventured to question whether, even though the working 
of the divine Spirit in the bosom of a Christian congrega 
tion were as powerful and profound as in pentecostal 
times, the habitual reserve and self-restraint of modern 
life, especially amongst the more educated classes, would 
not prevent such unrestrained expression of inward feel 
ings, as that there displayed. To this view he demurred, 
deeming that if the mighty rushing wind, which bloweth 
where it listeth, should indeed come with power, we 
should hear the sound thereof, so that even the world 
itself should not be able wholly to close its ears. Little 
did I think that within a month or two of that time, 

-jEt. 24.] ST. PETER S, DUNDEE. 59 

and in the parish church of that very place to which we 
were then bending our steps, I should myself witness 
what seemed so remarkable a verification of his words. 
Probably he himself, even while arguing the possibility 
of such a thing, little dreamed that it was in truth so near 
at hand. 

He entered on his labours at Dundee on the first or 
second Sabbath of April, taking as his text Romans xii. i, 
the same words on which he had preached his first 
sermon in his father s pulpit at Kilsyth a short time 
before, and which were in truth prophetic of the whole 
spirit and character of his future life and ministry. The 
work he now undertook was indeed an arduous, and to 
one so young and inexperienced, a peculiarly trying one. 
Robert Murray M Cheyne, whose name has since become 
a household word throughout the universal Church, was 
already widely known throughout Scotland as one of the 
most gifted, holy, and successful ministers of recent times; 
and it was no light or easy thing for any one to enter, 
even for a season, into his labours. An overflowing con 
gregation, of every class and degree in life, drawn together, 
many of them, from considerable distances in the town 
and country round, accustomed to the charm of a peculiar 
ministry which would be apt to render any ordinary 
teaching tame and common-place, and above all, throb 
bing throughout with a high tone of spiritual excitement 
which it was difficult to meet and to sustain, presented 
altogether a sphere of labour from which the young evan 
gelist, profoundly conscious of his own insufficiency, might 
well recoil. But it was, in truth, that very consciousness of 


insufficiency, and consequent utter abnegation of all trust 
in himself, that made him strong. Feeling in the depths 
of his soul that without Christ he could do nothing, but 
that through his grace strengthening him he could do all 
things, there did not, after all, seem to him so much 
difference in point of mere difficulty between one duty 
and another. Without the immediate presence and help 
of his divine Master he could not speak even to a hand 
ful of little children in a Sunday-school ; with that presence 
and help he could stand unabashed before the mightiest 
and the wisest in the world. It will be seen from con 
stant entries in his journal how perpetually present was 
this thought to his mind, and how it formed the master 
principle of his whole life and ministry; and it seems to 
me to have been so in a very remarkable degree from the 
beginning. And hence, no doubt, it was that on the very 
first day of his ministering before that great congregation, 
and when many anxious eyes were turned on the youthful 
face and form of one who seemed to them all too weak 
for such a burden, he appeared conspicuously calm and 
self-possessed, as one visibly standing in the shadow of 
the Almighty, and consciously speaking the words that 
were given him of the Lord. I have heard old members 
of the congregation tell how their hearts trembled for 
him, when they saw what seemed to them a mere 
stripling standing up in the place of one whom they so 
revered and honoured, and how almost at the first sound 
of his voice, as he led with such deep-toned spirituality 
and power the prayers of the sanctuary, their fears 
vanished, and they seemed to hear only the sound of his 


Master s feet behind him. Accordingly he seems from 
the first to have taken a singularly fast hold of the con 
gregation, and to have filled to a degree which one 
would scarcely have thought possible, alike in authority 
and spiritual power, the place of their absent pastor. 
Young, inexperienced, measured and slow of speech, 
gifted with no peculiar charm of poetry or sentiment or 
natural eloquence or winning sweetness, he bore so 
manifestly the visible seals of a divine commission, and 
carried about him withal such an awe of the divine 
presence and majesty, as to disarm criticism and constrain 
even careless hearts to receive him as the messenger of 
God. If his words were sometimes few, naked, un 
adorned, they were full of weight and power, and went 
home, as arrows directed by a sure aim, to the hearts and 
consciences of his hearers. Literally it might be said of 
him, that his speech and his preaching were not with 
excellency of speech and man s wisdom, but in demonstra 
tion of the Spirit and of power. The result accordingly 
was soon seen in a visible increase of spiritual inquiry 
amongst the people, and a generally heightened tone of 
solemnity and earnestness in the congregation at large. 
In the words of an esteemed member and office-bearer 
of the congregation, who has been able to recal with 
singular distinctness the scenes of those days: "Scarcely 
had Mr. Burns entered on his work in St. Peter s here, 
when his power as a preacher began to be felt. Gifted 
with a solid and vigorous understanding, possessed of a 
voice of vast compass and power unsurpassed even by 
that of Mr. Spurgeon and withal fired with an ardour so 


intense and an energy so exhaustless that nothing could 
damp or resist it, Mr. Burns wielded an influence over 
the masses whom he addressed which was almost without 
parallel since the days of Wesley and Whitfield. Crowds 
flocked to St. Peter s from all the country round; and 
the strength of the preacher seemed to grow with the 
incessant demands made upon it. Wherever Mr. Burns 
preached a deep impression was produced on his au 
dience, and it was felt to be impossible to remain uncon 
cerned under the impassioned earnestness of his appeals. 
With him there was no effort at oratorical display, but 
there was true eloquence ; and instances are on record of 
persons, strong in their self-confidence and enmity to the 
truth, who fell before its power who, 

" Though they came^to scoff, 
Remained to pray. " 

As already hinted, nothing could be more different than 
the whole style and character of his mind, from that of him 
whose place he yet so worthily filled. Of the rich aroma 
of sanctified poetry and pathos which imparted their dis 
tinctive charm to the life and writings of M Cheyne, he 
had none. His characteristic was strength, not beauty, 
clearness and force, rather than freshness and fulness of 
thought and diction ; and it was not even, except when he 
was profoundly stirred by strong spiritual influences, that 
one became conscious of the deep fountain of enthusiasm 
and of intense emotion that was within him. In the words 
of Mr. Moody Stuart, who intimately knew him from the 
very first days of his spiritual life, and who seems to me 
to have formed a singularly just estimate of his character 


and gifts, "the hard plodding for a great object, the saga 
cious intellect, the quick linguistic apprehension, common 
sense, mother wit, coolness and presence of mind in every 
variety of circumstance, were more his natural character 
istics, than the elements which go to constitute the enthu 
siastic and exciting preacher. In the midst of the revival 
at Kilsyth he would sometimes relieve the tension of his 
mind by reading the Greek classics ; and he possessed the 
bodily strength, the courage, and all the other qualities 
that would have enabled him to cross the continent of 
Africa, like Dr. Livingstone, if he had set his heart on 
such an object. No man was less a fool by nature, yet 
no man in modern times did more entirely become a fool 
for Christ s sake. His preaching was in a most peculiar 
manner by the power of the Holy Ghost, in demonstra 
tion of the Spirit and in power, and mighty through 
God to the pulling down of strongholds. He had no 
pathos, no fancy, little natural enthusiasm, and not much 
that could be called natural eloquence, but he had a firm 
grasp of gospel truth, a capacity for clear and forcible 
statement, and a voice capable of commanding any audi 
ence, however large, in the church, in the street, in the 
field; and when the power of the Spirit rested upon him, 
there were the thunders of Sinai in all their terrors, the 
still small voice of the gospel in much of its tenderness, 
the fervent fluency of a tongue touched with a live coal 
from the altar, the irrepressible urgency of one standing 
between the living and the dead, the earnest pressing of 
salvation that would accept no refusal; himself standing 
consciously and evidently in the presence of the great 


God, with heaven and hell and the souls of men open 
before him, with Jesus Christ filling his heart with his 
love, and pouring grace into his lips, and with multitudes 
before him weeping for sorrow over discovered sin, or for 
joy in a discovered Saviour." 

His first impressions of the place and of his work will 
be partly gathered from the following letter to a sister : 

"Dundee, Seafield Cottage, April io//z, 1839. ... I would 
gladly fill my sheet in narrating what I have been able to 
ascertain of my situation and circumstances here, were it 
not that I must husband every moment of my time for my 
engagements in visiting the sick and dying, examining intend 
ing communicants, and preparation for the Sabbath that is 
approaching. I am not left without many circumstances to 
encourage me in my arduous labours; not a few hearts seem 
in a good measure prepared to hear the gospel as the Word 
of God, and some I have met with whose experience in the 
spiritual life affords the strongest stimulus to my own growth 
in grace, and whose ideas of Christian ministrations will, I 
fear, make me to appear among them as an ignorant babbler. 
They appear, however, a very kind and not uncharitable class 
of people, as far as I can discover; they will, I hope, pray for 
as well as censure me; and as I have had a clear call from 
the Lord, without my own interference, to come among them, 
I desire to cast all my burden upon his blessed shoulders, and 
to wait with earnest wrestlings until he appear among us in 
his glory to build up Zion. Let us go on to know the love of 
Christ, which passeth knowledge, that we may be filled with 
all the fulness of God." 

In another letter, dated about two months after (June 
1 8), addressed to a deeply revered aunt at St. Andrews, 
he declines an invitation to preach there on a Sabbath, 
on the ground that "the people are in that interesting 


state of hopeful movement and inquiry, in which it is 
least of all the duty of their appointed teacher to be 
absent from them;" and then proceeds in that intense 
strain of ardent aspiration which had already become 
characteristic of him, and which seems almost prophetic 
of what was so soon to come : 

" It is my earnest desire and prayer, dear aunt, that the 
Lord may lock down in his infinite mercy and grace on St. 
Andrews, which in ancient times he so highly honoured, but 
from which, alas ! is not his glorious presence greatly with 
drawn? Oh! for a Rutherford or a Halyburton to awaken 
slumbering sinners at ease under the wrath of an angry God, 
and to stir up the true people of God to abound in the love 
and in the praise of Jesus ! Wilt Thou not revive us again, 
that thy people may rejoice in Thee. Oh ! may the Lord 
grant to that remnant that serve him in the Spirit to be 
zealous, and strengthen the things which remain, and are 
ready to die/ to plead, yea, to besiege the throne of grace 
with their unceasing and importunate pleadings, that He may 
appear in his glory, and build up Zion, giving ear to the 
prayer of the destitute and the groaning of the prisoners. Oh ! 
what a plea is the name of Jesus ! how omnipotent to move 
the heart of the Father, who loveth the Son, and hath given 
all things into his hands ! None of God s people have yet 
proved the power of that matchless name in the presence of 
Jehovah. Let us henceforth do so in the strength of Jesus, 
and we may yet see before we leave the kingdom of grace for 
the kingdom of glory, such a plenteous rain as will refresh 
God s heritage which is weary. The time is short ! Behold ! 
the Judge standeth before the door. Come, Lord Jesus, come 
quickly ! " 

It is at this point that the detailed journals of his 
life and labours, which he began in September, 1838, 

become for the first time fully available. These will form 



the main substance of our narrative during the whole 
period which they cover, supplemented only here and 
there by such illustrative light as the recollections of 
others or any surviving fragments of correspondence may 
throw upon them. They will, I am sure, be far more 
acceptable to all really interested in his work, than 
anything, however highly and even truthfully coloured, 
which could possibly proceed from any other hand. To 
any one in the slightest degree acquainted with the 
character of the writer, and who knows how jealously 
guarded and almost, as one might say, penurious he was 
of his words in anything relating to himself or his work 
these simple but pregnant annals, written as in the presence 
and under the very eye of God, will have an impressiveness 
and a meaning beyond the reach of eloquence. At first 
they are occasionally somewhat broken and fragmentary, 
but they increase in fulness and freedom as they proceed, 
and in parts, albeit naked and unadorned as ever, have 
all the vividness and force of a record written in the field, 
and amid the thick of battle. The following extracts 
relating to the same period to which the letters just 
quoted belong, will still further illustrate the nature of his 
work, and the inner workings of his soul in connection 
with it, during the first months of his ministry in Dundee, 
as well as form a fitting introduction to the more stirring 
scenes which will form the subject of the next chapter: 
" April 17, 1839. Met with two young communicants, 

M. W and E. W , by appointment at twelve 

o clock. Prayed with them, and conversed with each 
separately. They both appear hopeful converts to the 


Lord Jesus. M. W doubts the evidence of her faith 

from want of love to Christ, hardness of heart, &c., and 
was exhorted to come to Christ for these and all other 
fruits of the Spirit. E. W appeared to think she was 
a true believer, and gave an interesting account of her 
supposed conversion under Mr. M Cheyne s ministry; she 
is very intelligent, well acquainted with Scripture, and 
really appears to have known something of genuine 
spiritual exercise. I prayed with them at parting, and 
bade them farewell with mixed feelings of joy at the 
tokens of God s work which I thought I saw, and sorrow 
that I should feel so little in dealing with cases so inter 
esting and encouraging. O Lord, keep these dear young 
disciples from the devil, the world, and the flesh ; perfect 
thy love in their hearts, thine image in their souls, and 
grant to me in thine infinite grace to experience more 
pure and tender love for the lambs of the flock. This I 
ask in the name of my Lord Jesus. Amen. 

"Fast-day, i8//$. In coming from the evening discourse 
I was met by the father of James Wallace, Paton s Lane, 
a boy of twelve, whom I had previously called to see, 
and found, on my entrance, to my astonishment and 
delight, such a specimen (if all signs do not deceive me) 
of the work of the Holy Spirit as I have I think never 

before witnessed on a sick-bed, except in the case of , 

Rothesay. James was lying placidly on his couch, pale 
and sickly, but his eye beaming with intelligence and 
inexpressible joy. He told me at once that he had been 
afflicted for his profit. I asked him what he needed from 
Christ. He said, Redemption. Q. Tell me some of the 


particular things you need. A. A new heart and right 
spirit, deliverance from temptations, the world, and the 
devil. Q. Can Christ give you these great things? A. Yes. 
Q. Why can he do so? A. He is the Saviour of sinners. 
I then led him back to the pre-existent state of Christ as 
the eternal Son of God, and then Q. What did he be 
come? A. A man. Q. What did he do? A. He suffered 
persecution, he sweated great drops of blood, he was 
nailed to the Cross that he might redeem sinners. This 
I said was wondrous love. A. Yes. Q. Do you love 
Christ? A. Yes. Q. W T hy? A. Because he loved me. 
Q. When did you get these views of Christ? A. Since I 
lay down here. Q. Who has taught you? A. The Holy 
Spirit. Q. Did you seek him first, or did he seek you? 
A. He sought me ; I am found of them that sought me 
not. Q. Can you ever praise Christ enough? A. No. 
Q. Would you like to sing his praise in heaven? A. Yes, 
for ever. I said, There is a song which they sing in 
heaven: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts, the 
whole earth is full of his glory; and they say also, Worthy 
is the Lamb. A. Yes; that s the four beasts. Q. What 
do you chiefly desire; is it to get better? A. No; to 
depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Q. What 
would you wish for all those about you? A. That they 
should know Christ, and love Christ, for he teaches us to 
desire that all should know him. Q. Do you pray much? 
A. Yes; he commands us to pray always. Q. Can we 
pray ourselves? A. No; the Holy Spirit helpeth our 
infirmities, with groanings which cannot be uttered. 
Q. Would you like us to pray? A. Yes, very much. 

yEt. 24.] A YOUNG DISCIPLE. 69 

When we had done, I said I would come soon again. 
He said, Yes; He has promised that where two or three 
are gathered together in his name, there he will be in the 
midst of them to bless them and do them good, These 
are a few of the precious and spiritual sayings of this 
dearly beloved boy, not in the order in which they were 
uttered, for that I cannot recall. He also said of himself, 
that out of the mouth of babes and sucklings God gets 
perfect praise. He said he had heard Mr. M Cheyne with 
great pleasure; and that his father had one day told him 
something that he had said, When water is spilt upon 
the ground, it cannot be gathered up again, and yet the 
sun gathers it up; and so Christ draws sinners to himself 
when they are lost. I came away with mingled feelings 
of astonishment at the work of the Spirit, and desires for 
gratitude to him for his wondrous love in calling me to 

behold his marvellous works I went from 

this to Mr. M Cheyne s, and spent a few minutes with 
Mr. Moody, who goes off to-morrow at 7. Came home 
tired; had worship, and went to bed at eleven. Unspeak 
able mercies, unspeakable unfruitfulness and ingratitude. 
The glory will be all the Lord s, for the mercy and the 
grace are his. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget 
not #//his benefits. Amen. 

i^th. Rose at eight, breakfast at Mr. Thorns ; Mr. and 
Mrs. Parker from Aberdeen, &c., present. Copied the 
first of Mr. M Cheyne s pastoral letters; into town; walked 
home with Mr. Neilson ; studied treatise on Rejoicing in 
Christ. Visited two poor sick people no decided indi 
cation of spiritual life; met communicants at seven 


spoke to them on the nature of the Lord s Supper from 
the questions on that subject in the Shorter Catechism 
had some freedom and a little degree of light on the glory 
of Christ s love in his obedience and sufferings concluded 
at nine, and found a dear brother in Christ waiting me, 
Mr. M Donald, of Blairgowrie walked with him to Mr, 
Thain s, and entered into a proposal that I should ex 
change pulpits with him before the Assembly, and preach 
on missions. Came home and prepared for bed at a 
quarter past eleven. 

"2o/ Public worship at two. Mr. C , 

Bridge of E , discoursed on Acts vii. 54 to the end, 

the martyrdom of Stephen. A very interesting style of 
lecturing; a spiritual man, and much fitted to edify; 
admirable prayers with great variety. Met afterwards 
with young communicants to serve them with tokens. 
Dinner at Mr. M Cheyne s; present, Mr. Cumming and 
Mr. Grierson of Errol ; instructive conversation on Popery 
and the signs of the times. Met at half-past six P. B. and 
R. N., young communicants; conversed with them sepa 
rately till 8. P. I found better informed than I expected, 
and I think rather serious. R. N. was very ignorant of 
himself, and sour when taken cross-ways; was found to 
think that he loved God, and might be saved by works; 
tried to show him his state and the necessity of conversion. 
Gave P. B a token, and sent R. N. home to his closet, to 
meet me at a quarter past ten to-morrow, and see if he 
then wants a token. Oh ! what need of the powerful pres 
ence of the Holy Ghost, without whom a free Saviour will, 
and must be, a Saviour despised and rejected of men. 


How hard it is to unite in just proportions the humbling 
doctrine of man s inability to come to Christ without 
regeneration, and the free gospel offer which is the moral 
means employed by God in conversion! Oh! Spirit of 
Jesus, my Saviour, lead me, a poor, ignorant, and self- 
conceited sinner, to the experience of this great mystery 
of grace, that I may know how I ought to declare thy 
glorious gospel to perishing fellow-sinners ! Amen. 

"April z$d (Communion Sabbath). On Sabbath Mr. 
Sommerville officiated; action sermon from Ephesiansi. 6, 7. 
Mr. Cumming preached in the evening, but I was absent, 
having been called to preach for Mr. Baxter, Hiltown, 
instead of Mr. M Donald, of Blairgowrie, whose brother 
died at Perth on Saturday morning. I heard Mr. Baxter s 
address, excellent and solemn; went home with him, and 
spent the interval chiefly in prayer, and was more than 
usually helped in public duty. I went home again with 
Mr. Baxter, had tea and edifying converse; joined with 
him in prayer, and departed at half-past nine. 

"Monday Warned by Mrs. P against 

the danger to which young ministers are exposed; home 
to my studies at a quarter past eight; got some humilia 
tion, or rather some discovery of pride in prayer. The 
Lord is indeed infinite in mercy when he bears with me; 
to his name shall be the praise. 

"24^/2 Home at a quarter past eight; studies 

till a quarter past ten, interesting and profitable, especially 
reading from Fleming s remarkable and precious Fulfilling 
of the Scripture regarding the strength afforded to God s 
saints under trials and for difficult duties. Praise the 


Lord. But O for a revival of that experimental deep-laid 
religion which Fleming valued and exemplifies so fully in 
his pages! Awake, awake, O arm of the Lord! awake 
as in the ancient days, in the generations of old. 

" Evening of 2 ^th Discoursed on i Cor. i. 

26 to the end, not much freedom, but a measure of faith 
in the truth; then read No. 3 of the Revival Tracts about 
Baldernock. Discovered through grace, an awful hungering 
after applause from man, and came home fearing that God 
may utterly forsake me in consequence of my self-seeking 
in his service ; this He would have done long ago had not 
his love been free and unchanging in Christ Jesus. O for 
a spirit of humble wrestling prayer for the outpouring of the 
Holy Spirit, that sinners may be awakened, and saints 
greatly edified and advanced ! I wrote something more, 
had worship, and am now about going to rest. The Lord 
give me a song in the night to his glorious praise ! 

"29^/2. I have found no time these past few days to 
keep a note of memorabilia, and must now shortly review 
the facts that have occurred in the interval. I have been 
rising regularly a little after six except to-day, when I lay 
till eight. On Friday and Saturday I wrote and com 
mitted my discourses on Psalms xxiii.; Ixxi. 16. Con 
siderably assisted in preparing. On Sabbath had great 
calmness and composure, but I think a great want of 
holy thirstings after God. I had, however, more than 
usual liberty in prayer and preaching, especially in the 
afternoon. O that Christ were exalted and man for 
gotten among this people ! Come from the four winds, O 
breath, and breathe on these slain that they may live. . . . 


" April $oth. Called on M L , in distress since 

the time of the cholera reading Rutherford s Letters 
seemed a really experienced child of God said many 
striking things: e.g. The ways of God are strange; we maun 
just wait to see what airt he taks. She said among other 
things, Ministers shudna use big words, they micht as 
weel speak Erse 1 or Latin; it s weel we dinna need sic 
big words at a throne o grace. .... 

May ist. . . . . Studied during all the day my 
sermon on Matthew xi. 28. James Hamilton called. 

. . . . At six at tea, Mr. N , Mr. C , Mr. 

C , Mr. J , Mr. M , to consult about Sabbath- 
schools and the formation of a parochial missionary 

society. Mr. T came in accidentally at eight and 

remained till ten, when we separated with prayer a 
pleasant meeting; but I had an affecting disclosure to 
myself of the pride and vanity of my heart, which praise 
of late has awfully stirred up; none but an omnipotent 
and infinitely gracious Saviour will suit my case. Blessed 
be the Lord, Jesus is such as I need, and he has said to 
me, Come, ye labouring and heavy laden, and I will give 
you rest. I want rest from the dominion of sin. O 
that I wished it with an eye to the glory of God ; this also 
I look to Jesus for. It is the Spirit that quickeneth, 
the flesh profiteth nothing. No man can come to Christ 
except the Father draw him. Draw me, O Father! 
effectually to the praise of thy glory in Christ Jesus. 

"May 2d. . . . . Studied during the day Matthew 

1 i.e. Gaelic. 


xi. 28, and read over several of the Revival Tracts. In 
prayer for the evening sadly dead and dark. I have not 
seen the King s face these many days. Visited James 
Wallace at six, and found him rejoicing and advancing in 
knowledge as well as experience. He said he was ten days 
nearer death than when I last saw him, and this with joy. 
I asked him if he was not sorry. A. No ; to me to live is 
Christ and to die is gain. He said he had found out 
many wonderful passages, and when I got his Bible it was 
all folded down at the most striking texts. He alluded 
to a number of them: All our righteousness is as, &c. 
Isaiah xii. he said was sweet. I consulted him upon the 
meaning of many experimental passages, among others 
my present text, Matthew xi. 28, and found great light 
from his Spirit-taught knowledge. Who teacheth like 
God? His work is perfect. Met at half-past six with 
the tract-distributors in the vestry; said a few words and 
prayed. At the prayer-meeting I read, and shortly spoke 
on Isaiah liii., and then read parts of No. 3 of Re 
vival Tracts was helped considerably many anecdotes 
brought to mind great attention. Awake, awake, O 
arm of the Lord ! awake, as in the ancient days, as in the 
generations of old ! Glorify Christ, O Holy Spirit ! in our 
hearts and throughout the whole world. Amen. 

" *]th. Had a letter on Friday sweet and comforting 
from R. M Donald, Blairgowrie; wrote him in answer. 
Sabbath forenoon I was ill prepared, and was not sensibly 
so much assisted as on former occasions felt regret, but 
alas ! chiefly, I fear, from a regard to my name as a preacher, 
not to Christ s as a Saviour. In the afternoon exchanged 



with Mr. Roxburgh, and was more than usually supported 
to declare the truth. . . . Yesterday spent the morn 
ing in prayer. Walked, and read Boston s life A 
precious monument to the praise of grace noble standard 

of ministerial character ! . . . . Dined at ; I felt 

not at home in the atmosphere of this world s carnal 
security, which is so generally breathed at dinner-parties. 
Off at six to a meeting in the vestry on church exten 
sion class at seven the school-room quite full very 
interesting opportunity subject, John i. 1-14, along with 
Genesis i. Christ s supreme Godhead; how glorious the 
doctrine how conclusive the evidence ! The Lord was 
with me more than usually. 

"8M. . . . On Friday I went to Blairgowrie spent the 
remainder of the day and the morning of Saturday most 
pleasantly and profitably with my dearly beloved brother 
R. M Donald, and also his fellow-labourer Mr. Smith 

we had two seasons of special prayer, Mr. M D 

having left me on Saturday for town (Dundee) after we 

had dined together at Mr. T s, I remained there over 

Sabbath Mrs. T is, I think, a truly 

pious woman, and both she and Mr. T with all the 

family are most kind and interesting. Dear A was 

taken ill of scarlet fever on Saturday, and this excited us 
all a good deal. On Sabbath night he was very anxious 
to see me regarding the state of his soul; however, we 
were afraid to increase the fever, and I only stood at his 
bedside and repeated a few of the invitations to come to 
Christ for all. I was brought by this event nearer to 
eternity, and felt more of the reality and awfulness of 


perdition than I remember ever having before. O that 
the Lord would sustain me in a constant and prevailing 
sense of the fearful guilt and danger of sinners remaining 
at a distance from Christ, and his free and offered gift 
to perishing sinners. On Sabbath I preached thrice i 
twice in the church on Matthew xi. 25, 26, and in the 
evening in Mr. Smith s chapel from Psalm Ixxi. 1 6. After 
coming out in the evening I went up to Mr. M Donald s 
Sabbath-school, in the church, and spoke a little before 
concluding with prayer. This is a most engaging assem 
bly of young people, and I have reason to think, from 
what I saw, that God is doing some gracious work among 
them. Yesterday (Monday) .... the class in the 
evening was full to the door subject, Mr. McDonald s 
forenoon sermon, "They glorified God in me;" very 


" 2isf. I composed and committed two discourses on 
Matthew xi. 27, first clause, and was more than ever sup 
ported in the pulpit, especially in the afternoon, when I 
was enabled to plead with sinners to submit to the King 

of Zion. In the evening I visited J. W , where I met 

K. B , the woman who sits in the pulpit stair. She 

said all head-learning could not enable a man to feed the 
lambs; there must be first repentance, as in the case of 
Peter. She exhorted me with spiritual earnestness to 
watch for individual souls, saying, You may lose a jewel 
from your crown; though you do not lose your crown, you 
may lose a jewel from it. She appeared to recognize the 
work of God in my soul, and spoke with great pleasure of 
the discourses of that day. Praise all to God ! I am vile, 


vile, vile O that the Lord would give me 

the skill of a Brainerd or a Dickson, for my present diffi 
cult and most precious duties ! Establish the work of 
our hands; yea, the work of our hands do thou establish 
it. How various are God s ways of dealing with the 
soul; how much does he display his sovereign hand in 
bringing souls under conviction and into the peace of 
believing. One of the class came upon Monday night 
when we were dismissing, and asked if I could tell her 
anything she could do for Christ. O what a precious 
question, when put in the spirit of Paul What wilt thou 
have me to do? Among other things I told her to be 
sure to ask the Lord himself, and to leave the matter in 
his hands." 

On hearing of one awakened under his sermon on Psalm 
Ixxi. 1 6, he writes: "O marvellous grace, that the Lord 
should regard at all my carnal, self-seeking ministry; to 
him be the glory eternally! .... Lord Jesus, the 
good Shepherd, lead this wandering sheep to thy fold; 
even now do thou fan into a flame by the quickening 
breath of thy Spirit that smoking flax which thou hast 
touched with the heavenly fire of thy matchless grace, and 
give rne grace the grace of the indwelling Spirit to fit 
me for feeding the lambs and tending the sheep. Thy 
blood and obedience freely offered to sinners of the 
deepest dye, are all my pleas with the Father. Come, 
Lord Jesus, come quickly, and cause many to say with 
hearts smitten with the rod of thy strength, We would 

see Jesus. Amen On Sabbath I preached 

in the forenoon from Matthew xviii. 2, Except ye be 


converted/ &c. ; and in the evening from Psalm ex. 3, 
Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power/ 
when a collection of ;8, los. 6d. was made to assist in 
establishing a parochial library. I was more than usually 
assisted of the Lord all day. O how much I would 
wonder and adore his long-suffering and grace in bearing 
with me, and in still preventing me with his tender mercies. 
It is all to the praise of the glory of his grace. Not for 
your sake do I this. Truth, Lord. The wages of sin is 
death, but eternal life is the gift of God through Jesus Christ 

our Lord. On Monday Mrs. T , Mrs. L , and 

M. L called and presented me with a Bible, Eusebius 

History, and Dr. Duff s Missions the Chief End of the 
Christian Church, from my female class. I returned 
thanks with them on my knees. I am vile, vile, vile, and 
feel myself most so when thanked for serving him. May 
He return their kindness in enabling me to give them back 
with demonstration of the Spirit and power/ the word 
contained in the blessed volume they have given me. It 
is Bagster s English Polyglot, with index and concordance, 
and is finely bound in morocco. 

". . . . I had a sweet note the other day from W. 

U , in which he asks me, How is it with your soul? 

Is the glory of God ever in your view? Do you desire 
above all things to glorify him upon earth? Is this the grand 
centre-point in all your wishes? Thanks to God for these 
questions thus faithfully put by his dear young servant. 

"June 6th. .... A. M came with joy to 

tell me that she had found her own case all opened up 
the last two Sabbaths, and that she now found herself as 


under Mr. M Cheyne s ministry. I told her not to cast 
sparks from hell into my inflammable heart to give 
thanks to God, and to beware of commending man. On 
Monday I had a visit from an interesting old woman, 

Jean D , who in her youth was a parishioner of my 

father s at Dun, while servant with Mr. M , Somershill, 

and whose mother, Jean M , lived at Arat s Mill, and 

was often visited by my father in her last illness. She told 
me many interesting facts, among others the following: 

While a servant with Mr. M , my father came round and 

catechised her, and she told me the questions he put, and 
the kind manner he spoke to her. She requested to be 
allowed to attend his Sabbath-class; he objected that she 
was too old; but she was so anxious, that though twenty- 
five, she was admitted. Her parents were both godly 
people, who prayed much, and on the Sabbath afternoons 
they used to sit in the summer time upon a green, and go 
over all that had been said. She said then more would have 
been got over at such a time than now was learned in a year, 
when people left almost all behind them at the church. 
Her father, when he could not through sickness rise to 
pray with them, knelt and prayed in his bed. She had a 
brother who went to Brechin to learn a trade, and went 
astray; but was hurt, became ill, and then came home 
and was brought under convictions of sin. He had very 
dark and despairing views of himself for a long time, and 
would often cry like a child. One day he had been a 
good while out of sight, and her mother said to Jean, 
Where is your brother? He soon after appeared, rising 
from the green where he had been, as she thought, at prayer, 


and came into the house with a smiling countenance. They 
were amazed, and asked the reason; he said, O mother, 
I see that there is more merit in the blood of Jesus than 
there is guilt in my sins, and why should I fear? This 
brought tears of joy into all their eyes. He afterwards 
died in great peace, the peace of God in believing the 
gospel. This woman told me many interesting facts 
regarding Mr. Coutts and our uncle at Brechin what were 
their texts, particularly at communion seasons, and many 
things that they said. Regarding her later history also, 
since she came to this neighbourhood, she gave me a full 
account, in many respects remarkable. One of her sons 
now comes regularly to St. Peter s, from Longforgan, a 
distance of five miles. The origin of this is very remark 
able. One day in winter, he and another man were work 
ing in a quarry, and happened to be beside a fire, when a 
person came up on a pony, and, for what reason they did 
not know, came off, and went up to them. He entered 
into conversation on the state of their souls, drawing some 
alarming truths from the blazing fire. The men were sur 
prised, and said, l Ye re nae common man. Oh yes, 
says he, just a common man. One of the men, how 
ever, recognized him as Mr. M Cheyne, and they were so 

much impressed that Jean D s son resolved, as soon 

as the weather would allow, to come in to hear him. The 
consequence has been, that he has continued to come 
regularly. She hopes that he is really a converted man, 
and told me that he has been for some time a member of 
a prayer-meeting. What a striking lesson to be instant 
in season and out of season. 


"July zd. My manifold engagements have prevented 
me from recording the multiplied and wonderful doings 
of God towards me in this book which have occurred 
during the past month. I can now only note a few. I 
went to Edinburgh on the 8th of June, at Mr. Moody s 
request, and preached for him on Sabbath afternoon, 
from Matthew xviii. 2, Except ye be converted, &c. 
On the Saturday I saw Mr. Candlish and other friends 
relative to the mission to Aden. That day the Lord 
directed me most marvellously to meet with several 

remarkable saints whom I had not before seen 

On my way home I called on Mr. M Cheyne, and finding 
that they were dividing a sheet among them, and sending 
a letter to Constantinople for Mr. R. M. M Cheyne, I 
was kindly allowed to occupy part of the remaining space. 
This was a wonderful day to my soul, a day fitted to 
humble me very low before Him under whose teaching I 
have so little profited in comparison of many others, 
and to exalt in my eyes more than ever the riches and 
sovereignty of the grace of a redeeming God. Since I 
came home, three Sabbaths have elapsed. On the first 
(June 1 6), I preached all day from Matthew xi. 28. 
Owing to my many engagements I had nothing written 
but a few sentences of the forenoon sermon; but, thanks 
be to Jesus, on whose strength I was enabled in some 
degree to rely, I never, perhaps, preached with greater 
liberty and power. Next Sabbath (23d) I was upon the 
following two verses. In the forenoon I was considerably 
deserted of God, and was much weighed down in the 
interval owing to my having nothing written for the after- 


noon, and my fears that God was about to make me 
ashamed before the congregation that I might thencefor 
ward prepare more carefully. I cried to the Lord in my 
distress, and he heard me, and in the afternoon, as soon 
as I began to speak upon these words, " I will give rest 
to your souls, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light," 
I felt most sensibly the quickening breath of the Holy 
Ghost upon my soul, and was enabled to preach in a way 
more affectionate, full, and earnest, than almost ever 
before. I resolved, however, in future to prepare more 
carefully if possible. Last Sabbath (soth) I began in the 
forenoon to lecture through the Colossians, taking the in 
scription and salutation as the first subject, and in the 
afternoon I commenced a series of discourses on Psalm 
cxxx., taking the help of the great Owen. I was much 
supported all day, and had nearer views of the holiness 
of Jehovah than ever before in the pulpit. There are 
some favourable symptoms of the presence of God among 
the flock. Two prayer-meetings have begun among the 
young women, those among the older people are becom 
ing larger and more lively." .... 

Already had the fond anticipation of the absent pastor 
in behalf of his youthful assistant begun to be realized: 
" You are given," he had said, " in answer to prayer, and 
these gifts are, I believe, always, without exception, 
blessed." Thus far he had proved faithful in keeping 
the vineyard of another; but he was now on the eve 
of being called to enter on a field and line of service 
peculiarly his own. 



THE subject of the revival of religion as the great 
want of the times had been already, and for a long 
time, much in the minds both of the pastor and the 
people of Kilsyth. The memorable scenes of the years 
1742-3, when, under the ministry of the Rev. James 
Robe, this parish shared with that of Cambuslang in so 
remarkable an effusion of the Spirit of grace, still lived 
as a cherished tradition in the hearts of the people, and 
there were still here and there little companies of praying 
souls, "who spake one to another" of the good days of 
the past, and who "sighed and cried" over the subse 
quent times of, declension and backsliding. There was, 
I believe, at least one society for religious fellowship 
which had survived, in the uninterrupted succession of 
its members, all through the intervening period, and 
whose lamp of faith and prayer was still found faintly 
burning, when the light of a new morning broke upon 
them, and the whole parish seemed to awake as "from 
a dream of a hundred years." Into those sacred re 
miniscences and aspirations my father entered most 
profoundly from the first day of his ministry here in 


1821, and laboured unceasingly thenceforward to keep 
them alive both in his own heart and in those of his 
people. In the words of his own biography, "his public 
instructions as well as private conversation, at visita 
tions and elsewhere, abounded with allusions to those 
happy days of the past, and with expressions of ardent 
longing for their return; and to this point might the 
whole course of his ministry be said more or less to 
turn. In 1822, the second year of his ministry, we find 
him along with another congenial spirit, the humble 
and godly Dr. George Wright of Stirling, bending over 
the old records of the kirk-session bearing on the dates 
1742-9, and with solemn interest deciphering the dim 
and fading lines that referred to the incidents of the 
work as then in progress. Towards the close of the 
same year (Dec. 1822), on two successive Sabbaths, he 
preached directly and fully on the subject, taking for his 
text those singularly appropriate and impressive words 
in Micah vii. i Woe is me, for I am as when they 
have gathered the summer fruits, as the grape-gleanings 
of the vintage; there is no cluster to eat; my soul desired 
the first ripe fruit: bringing the whole case of past 
attainment and subsequent declension before the con 
gregation, and calling upon them again to arise and seek 
the Lord. In 1830, in consequence of some unusual 
outbreaks of sin, in connection with drunken brawls, 
a parochial day of fasting and prayer, in the view of 
prevailing sins and backslidings, was appointed by the 
kirk-session, and observed with marked seriousness and 
solemnity. In 1832 the near approach of the cholera, 


which fell heavily on the neighbouring village of Kirkin- 
tilloch, but never actually entered Kilsyth, while sound 
ing its own terrible peal, at the same time summoned the 
pastor to lift up his voice in another earnest call to 
repentance and newness of life. In 1836 he read an 
elaborate essay before a clerical society in Glasgow with 
the twofold object of calling more extensive attention to 
the subject, and of drawing forth the suggestions of his 
brethren in regard to some signs of awakening life which 
were even then appearing in his own parish." About the 
same time he sought by means of brief, but pointed 
pastoral addresses to "heads of families," and on "family 
worship," which he printed and presented to every 
household in his parish, to revive the spirit of personal 
and family religion amongst his people. Finally, on a Sab 
bath afternoon in August, 1838, standing on the grave of 
his revered predecessor Mr. Robe, on the anniversary of 
his death, and taking as his text the words inscribed in 
Hebrew letters on his tomb, Isaiah xxvi. 19, he pled before 
a vast assemblage of his people, in behalf of Christ and 
the new birth unto eternal life, in tones of unaccustomed 
earnestness, and which stirred the hearts of many in a 
manner never to be forgotten. By such means as these 
did he seek through successive years to strengthen the 
things that remained and were ready to die, and, if so it 
might be, fan the feeble spark once more into a flame. 
The result was seen in a growingly heightened tone of 
moral and religious life in the congregation and parish 
generally, as well as latterly in more specific tokens of the 
divine power and presence, which seemed the precursors 


of a still richer blessing yet to come. There was a 
marked increase of seriousness and devout earnestness 
in public worship. Prayer-meetings became at once 
more numerous and more fervent. One or two sermons 
at communion times, marked by a peculiar unction 
and power, had fallen with visibly solemnizing effect 
on the congregation one in particular, by the Rev. A. N. 
Somerville of Anderston, Glasgow, on the words, "Be 
hold I stand at the door and knock," which imprinted 
itself on many hearts, and was afterwards often referred 
to as marking an era in the religious history of the 
parish. Conversions, in fine, of a more than usually 
striking kind, became more frequent, and contributed 
at once to arrest the attention of the careless, and to 
animate the hopes and quicken the prayers of those who 
were looking and longing for the heavenly shower. 

Meanwhile influences of a concurrent kind were at work 
elsewhere, and tended still further to quicken the pulse of 
religious life in the place. Similar tokens of reviving 
earnestness were appearing more or less extensively 
amongst the members of the other Christian denomina 
tions around, and particularly in connection with a small 
but very fervent society of Wesleyan Methodists, whose 
distinctive teaching tended greatly to emphasize in the 
minds of the people the great ideas of conversion, the 
new birth, and the conscious peace and life of God, and 
whose unwearied activity and zeal for the gathering in of 
souls spread by a happy infection to the hearts of others. 

It was in these circumstances, and to a field thus pre 
pared, that the young evangelist now came, bearing the 

&t. 24.] THE DAY OF POWER. 87 

precious seed which he had already sown with such hope 
ful promise in Dundee. The remarkable scene which fol 
lowed has been already often described, and I should have 
almost shrunk from attempting any fresh account of it, did 
there not happily survive a full and deliberate statement 
from my brother s own hand, which will enable us to survey 
it from a new and deeply interesting point of view. It was 
written during a quiet interval in the manse of Kilsyth 
exactly a year after the occurrences to which it refers, and 
is couched in a tone of solemn thoughtfulness and utter 
self-abnegation, in the presence of Him whose wondrous 
works he records, which imparts a peculiar weight to every 
word, and the impression of which would be marred only, 
not helped, by any laboured description of ours : 

"Having a spare hour, it has occurred to my mind that 
it may be for the glory of God that I should at last 
record my recollections of the marvellous commencement 
of the Lord s glorious work in this place in the month of 
July, 1839, and I entreat the special aid of the Holy 
Ghost, that I may write according to his own will and 
for the divine glory regarding these wonders of the Lord 
Jehovah. During the first four months of my ministry, 
which were spent at Dundee, I enjoyed much of the 
Lord s presence in my own soul, and laid in large stores 
of divine knowledge in preparing from week to week for 
my pulpit services in St. Peter s Church. But though I 
endeavoured to speak the truth fully, and to press it 
earnestly on the souls of the people, there was still a 
defect in my preaching at that time which I have since 
learned to correct, viz. that, partly from unbelieving 


doubts regarding the truth in all its infinite magnitude, 
and partly from a tendency to shrink back from speaking 
in such a way as visibly and generally to alarm the people, 
I never came, as it were, to throw down the gauntlet to 
the enemy by the unreserved declaration and urgent 
application of the divine testimony regarding the state of 
fallen man and the necessity of an unreserved surrender 
to the Lord Jesus in all his offices in order that he may 
be saved. However, I was gradually approaching to this 
point, which I had had in my eye as the grand means of 
success in converting souls, from the first time I entered 
the pulpit, and even from the day of my own remarkable 
conversion, of which I trust the Lord may enable me to 
leave some record behind on this earth for the glory of 
his own infinite sovereign and everlasting love in Christ. 
During the last three Sabbaths that I was at Dundee, 
before coming to Kilsyth, I was led in a great measure 
to preach without writing, not because I neglected to 
study, but in order that I might study and pray for a 
longer time; and in preaching on the subjects which I had 
thus prepared, I was more than usually sensible of the 
divine support. The people also seemed to feel more 
deeply solemnized, and I was told of some who were 
shedding silent tears under the word of the Lord. I was 
to have preached on the evening of the fast-day at Kilsyth, 
July 1 8th, but the burial of my dear brother-in-law, 
George Moody, at Paisley was fixed for that day and I was 
of course obliged to be present thereat. His death was 
accompanied with a blessing from Jehovah to my soul. 
I never enjoyed, I think, sweeter realizations of the 


glory and love of Jesus, and of the certainty and blessed 
ness of his eternal kingdom, than when at Paisley on this 
solemn occasion. The beautifully consistent and holy 
walk of our dear departed brother, with the sweet divine 
serenity that marked the closing scene of his life, made 
his death very affecting, and eminently fitted to draw 
away the heart of the believer after him to Jesus in the 
heavenly glory. This was its effect on my soul through 
the Lord s power. On the way to the grave I wept with 
joy, and could have praised the Lord aloud for his love 
in allowing me to assist in carrying to the bed of rest a 
member of his own body, of his flesh, and of his bones; 
and when I looked for the last time on the coffined body 
in its narrow, low, solitary, cold resting-place, I had a 
glorious anticipation of the second coming of the Lord, 
when He would himself raise up in glory everlasting that 
dear body which he had appointed us to bury in its 
corruption and decay. 

"I have taken this retrospect of circumstances in 
my own history previous to the time of my coming to 
Kilsyth, as they bore very powerfully upon my own state 
of mind, and were among the means by which the Lord 
finished my preparation a preparation which he had 
begun even in my infancy for being employed as his 
poor and despised but yet honoured instrument in begin 
ning and in assisting to carry on the wonderful work that 
followed. I was appointed to preach at Kilsyth on Friday 
evening. I did so from Psalm cxxx. i, 2, a subject I had 
lately handled in Dundee after studying Owen s treatise 
on this psalm. I believe I preached with considerable 


solemnity, and in a manner in some degree fitted to alarm 
unconverted sinners and sleeping saints. I remember that 
some of the people of God seemed to respond with great 
fulness of heart to many of my petitions in public prayer, 
that while I was preaching there was a deep solemnity 
upon the audience, and that some of the Lord s people 
met me as I retired apparently much affected and testi 
fying that the Lord had been among us. On Saturday I 
preached at Banton from Psalm cxxx. 3, with considerable 
assistance, as far as I can recollect. My uncle Dr. Burns 
of Paisley seemed to feel as if the Lord was with me, and 
kindly asked me to take his place at Kilsyth on Sabbath 
evening, leaving him to fill mine on Monday forenoon. 
He spoke also, I remember, in the family of its not being 
my duty to go abroad as I was on the eve of doing, but that 
I should be a home missionary in Scotland. I myself 
did not speculate anxiously about the future, but desired 
to be an instrument of advancing his work at the present 
time. In the evening of Saturday I met with one or two 
persons under deep distress of soul; and one of these, who 
is now a consistent follower of Jesus, seemed to enter into 
the peace of God while I was praying with her. This 
brought the work of the Spirit before me in a more re 
markable and glorious form than I had before witnessed 
it, andv^^ed at once to quicken my desires after, and 
enr/y i, ^py anticipations of seeing some glorious mani- 
festatoje v Jf the Lord s saving strength. On Sabbath 
everything went on as usual until the conclusion of the 
third table service, if I remember right, when Dr. Burns 
kindly shortened his own address and introduced me to 


the people, that I might give a short address not only to 
the communicants but to all present in the church. I 
had no precise subject in view on which to speak, but 
when rising was led to John xx., if I mistake not, simply 
by its opening to me and appearing suitable. This 
subject I tried to generalize as depicting the experience 
of a saint in seeking communion with Jesus, and the 
manner in which Jesus often deals with such. I had much 
assistance, and was especially enabled to charge hundreds 
of the communicants with betraying Christ at his table. I 
heard afterwards of some that were much moved at this 
time, and in particular of one woman who was then first 
apprehended by the Spirit and has been to all appearance 
converted. In the evening I preached from Matthew xi. 
28, but, as far as I can recollect, without remarkable assist 
ance or remarkable effects. At the close, however, I felt 
such a yearning of heart over the poor people among 
whom I had spent so many of my youthful years in sin, 
that I intimated I would again address them before bidding 
them farewell it might be never to meet again on earth; 
and that I would do so in the market-place, in order to 
reach the many who absented themselves from the house 
of God, and after whom I longed in the bowels of Jesus 
Christ. This meeting was fixed for Tuesday at 10 A.M., 
as I intended that day to leave Kilsyth on my return to 
Dundee. On Monday evening we had a meeting of the 
Missionary Society Dr. Burns preached an excellent 
sermon from Isaiah lii. i, in which some things were said 
upon Christ s wedding-garment which touched my heart. 
In speaking I felt the case of the heathen lying nearer 


my heart than I think ever before or since, and was 
enabled, though without any previous idea of what I was 
to say, to speak with liberty and power of the Holy Ghost. 
"This and all other similar facts I would testify as in 
the sight of Jehovah, and as being obliged to do so for 
his glory. May he enable me to give the glory all to 
him, and take none of it at all to my own cursed flesh ! 
The people seemed much impressed. The meeting, 
however, was not very large. I can hardly recall the 
feelings with which I went to preach on Tuesday morning 
a morning fixed from all eternity in Jehovah s counsels 
as an era in the history of redemption. May the Holy 
Ghost breathe upon my soul and revive in my memory, too 
faithless, alas ! to the records of the Lord s wondrous works, 
the recollection of the marvellous scene which was then 
displayed before the wondering eyes of many favoured 
sinners in this place. Though I cannot speak with 
precision of the frame of soul in which I went to the 
Lord s work on that memorable day, yet I remember in 
general that I had an intense longing for the conversion 
of souls and the glory of Emmanuel, that I mourned 
under a sense of the awful state of sinners without Christ, 
their guilt in rejecting him as freely offered to their 
acceptance, my own total inability to help them by any 
thing that I could do, and my complete unfitness and 
unworthiness to be an instrument in the hands of the 
Holy Ghost in saving their souls; while at the same 
time my eyes were fixed on the Lord as the God of 
salvation with a sweet hope of his glorious appearing. 
I have since heard that some of the people of God 

Mt. 24.] TUESDAY, JULY 23d, 1839. 93 

in Kilsyth who had been longing and wrestling for a 
time of refreshing from the Lord s presence, and who had 
during much of the previous night been travailing in 
birth for souls, came to the meeting not only with the 
hope, but with well-nigh the certain anticipation of God s 
glorious appearing, from the impressions they had had 
upon their own souls of Jehovah s approaching glory and 
majesty, especially when pleading at his footstool. The 
morning proved very unfavourable for our assembling in 
the open air, and this seems to have been a wise provi 
dential arrangement; for while, on the one hand, it was 
necessary that our meeting should be intimated for the 
open air, in order to collect the great multitude; on the 
other hand, it was very needful, in order to the right 
management of so glorious a work as that which followed, 
that we should be assembled within doors. At ten o clock 
I went down to the middle of the town, and with some 
others drove up before us some stragglers who were re 
maining behind the crowd. When I entered the pulpit, 
I saw before me an immense multitude from the town 
and neighbourhood filling the seats, stairs, passages, and 
porches, all in their ordinary clothes, and including many 
of the most abandoned of our population. I began, I 
think, by singing the io2d Psalm, and was affected deeply 
when in reading it I came to these lines : 

" Her time for favour which was set, 
Behold, is now come to an end. 

That word now 1 touched my heart as with divine power, 
and encouraged the sweet hope that the set time was really 
now at hand. I read without comment, but with solemn 


feelings, the account of the conversion of the three thou 
sand on the day of Pentecost; and this account, I am 
told, affected some of the people considerably. When 
we had prayed a second time, specially imploring that 
the Lord would open on us the windows of heaven, I 
preached from the words (Psalm ex. 3): Thy people shall 
be willing in the day of thy power. This subject I had 
studied and preached on at Dundee without any remark 
able effect; and though I was so much enlarged on this 
occasion in discoursing from it, I have not been able to 
treat it in the same manner, or with the same effects, at 
any subsequent time. The following was the plan of the 
remarks which I was led to make upon the words: 

1. The persons spoken of they are God s elect those 
given to Christ of the Father. II. The promise of the 
Father to Emmanuel regarding these persons * they shall 
be willing. i. Willing to be saved by Christ s righteous 
ness alone. 2. Willing to take on his yoke. 3. Willing to 
bear his cross. III. The time of the promise the day 
of Emmanuel s power, i. It is the day of his exaltation 
at the Father s right hand (verse i), i.e. the latter day. 

2. It is the day of the free preaching of the Divine word. 

3. It is the day in which Christ crucified is the centre and 
sum of the doctrine taught. 4. It is the day of the out 
pouring of the Holy Spirit The Lord shall send, &c. 
I was led under this last particular to allude to some of 
the most remarkable outpourings of the Spirit that have 
been granted to the church, beginning from the day of 
Pentecost ; and in surveying this galaxy of Divine wonders, 
I had come to notice the glorious revelation of Jehovah s 


right hand which was given at the Kirk of Shotts in 1630, 
while John Livingstone was preaching from Ezekiel 
xxxvi. 26, 27, when it pleased the sovereign God of grace 
to make bare his holy arm in the midst of us, and to per 
form a work in many souls resembling that of which I had 
been speaking, in majesty and glory! In referring to this 
wonderful work of the Spirit, I mentioned the fact that 
when Mr. Livingstone was on the point of closing his dis 
course a few drops of rain began to fall, and that when the 
people began to put on their coverings, he asked them if 
they had any shelter from the drops of Divine wrath, and 
was thus led to enlarge for nearly another hour in exhort 
ing them to flee to Christ, with so much of the power 
of God, that about five hundred persons were converted. 
And just when I was speaking of the occasion and the 
nature of this wonderful address, I felt my own soul moved 
in a manner so remarkable that I was led, like Mr. Living 
stone, to plead with the unconverted before me instantly 
to close with God s offers of mercy, and continued to do 
so until the power of the Lord s Spirit became so mighty 
upon their souls as to carry all before it, like the rushing 
mighty wind of Pentecost ! During the whole of the time 
that I was speaking, the people listened with the most 
rivetted and solemn attention, and with many silent tears 
and inward groanings of the spirit; but at the last their 
feelings became too strong for all ordinary restraints, and 
broke forth simultaneously in weeping and wailing, tears 
and groans, intermingled with shouts of joy and praise 
from some of the people of God. The appearance of a 
great part of the people from the pulpit gave me an 


awfully vivid picture of the state of the ungodly in the 
day of Christ s coming to judgment. Some were scream 
ing out in agony; others, and among these strong men, 
fell to the ground as if they had been dead; and such was 
the general commotion, that after repeating for some time 
the most free and urgent invitations of the Lord to sinners 
(as Isaiah lv., Revelation xxii. 17), I was obliged to give 
out a psalm, which was soon joined in by a considerable 
number, our voices being mingled with the mourning 
groans of many prisoners sighing for deliverance. After 
Dr. Burns and my father had spoken for a little and 
prayed, the meeting was closed at three o clock, intima 
tion having been given that we would meet again at six. 

" To my own astonishment during the progress of this 
wonderful scene, when almost all present were over 
powered, it pleased the Lord to keep my soul perfectly 
calm. Along with the awful and affecting realization 
which I obtained of the state of the unconverted, I had 
such a view of the glory redounding to God, and the 
blessings conferred on poor sinners, by the work that was 
advancing, as to fill my soul with tranquil joy and praise. 
Indeed I was so composed, that when, with the view of 
recruiting my strength for the labours still in view, I 
stretched myself on my bed on going home, I enjoyed an 
hour of the most refreshing sleep, and rose as vigorous in 
mind and body as before." 

I have given in the Appendix the notes from his own 
manuscript of the sermon, the delivery of which was pro 
ductive of so remarkable an effect; but it may well be 
conceived that in this case the written words convey but 


a very inadequate impression of the spoken address, to 
which they scarcely bore a greater resemblance than the 
black glistening fuel to the live coal glowing with bright 
furnace heat. His manner indeed at first, and through 
nearly one-half of the discourse, was, as usual, calm, de 
liberate, measured; nor did he, I think, greatly diverge 
either in words or in sequence of thought, from the line of 
the written discourse; but there was about him throughout 
an awful solemnity, as if his soul was overshadowed with 
the very presence of Him in whose name he spoke; and 
as he went on, that presence seemed more and more to 
pass within him, and to possess him, and to bear him 
along in a current of strong emotion, which was alike to 
himself and to his hearers irresistible. Appeal followed 
appeal in ever-increasing fervour and terrible energy, till at 
last, as he reached the climax of his argument, and vehe 
mently urged his hearers to fight the battle that they might 
win the eternal prize, the words, " no cross, no crown," 
pealed from his lips, not so much like a sentence of ordi 
nary speech, as a shout in the thick of battle. Another 
moment of intense and incontrollable emotion I vividly 
remember. In urging sinners to an immediate closing 
with Christ in the offers of his grace, he had made use of 
the obvious and very common figure of a life-boat bring 
ing hope and deliverance to the side of a foundering 
vessel; when in developing the idea and dwelling on it, 
the whole scene seemed to pass in living reality before 
his eyes the doomed bark rolling helplessly amid the 
wild waves, and rapidly settling down; the crouching, 
trembling throng clinging to the gunwale, and the light 


buoyant skiff leaping up towards them amid the blinding 
spray, so near that they might almost touch it; and as he 
saw them still hesitating and wasting in fatal inaction the 
last moments of opportunity, he cried aloud as one might 
do from the summit of a neighbouring headland on the 
shore, " Are you in ? are you in ? Flee for refuge to lay 
hold of the hope set before you; now or never." There 
was in his whole style and manner at this moment, as 
frequently afterwards at similar times, a dramatic vividness 
and energy, which reminded one of what we read of in 
Whitfield; a vividness and energy, however, which in my 
brother s case was not in any measure due to a graphic 
poetic fancy, but simply to an intense and awful realization 
of eternal truths. As to the scene itself which followed, 
I can think of no better description than the account of 
the day of Pentecost, in the second chapter of the Acts, 
of which both in its immediate features and in its after 
results, and in everything except the miraculous gift of 
tongues, it seems to me to have been an exact counterpart. 
It is from this time that we must date a remarkable 
change in my brother s manner of preaching, which Mr. 
Moody Stuart has described in a manner so admirable, 
that I am tempted to transcribe his words: "At Kilsyth 
there was fulfilled in him the promise, The Lord whom 
ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple, even the 
Messenger of the Covenant whom ye delight in. For 
weeks before he was full of prayer; he seemed to care for 
nothing but to pray. In the day-time, alone or with 
others, it was his chief delight, and in the night watches 
he might be overheard praying aloud. Yet during this 


time the power that rested upon himself did not affect his 
preaching; it was sensible, clear, orthodox, unobjection 
able; and in that indeed he never altered; for in the 
midst of whatever excitement, there was never any eccen 
tricity or extravagance of doctrine, or even the extreme 
pressing of any one point; but a steadfast keeping within 
lines of received truth, as not expecting conversion by 
any special way of stating the gospel, but by the power 
of the Spirit accompanying it. For a season, however, 
before the Kilsyth communion, he seemed two different 
men in private and public his own spiritual strength so 
far exceeding what appeared in the pulpit. But then the 
Lord, who had strengthened David to slay the lion and 
the bear in the recesses of the mountains, sent him forth 
to triumph over Goliath before the hosts of Israel. He 
had been asking, seeking, knocking, for the Holy Spirit; 
that Spirit came upon him with power; and the Lord 
added unto the church daily such as should be saved, 
multitudes both of men and women." 

The movement thus begun in a manner so remarkable, 
went on steadily, and for weeks thereafter seemed only 
to grow in solidity and depth. Meetings for prayer and 
preaching of the gospel were held every successive night, 
generally in the church, and occasionally, when the 
weather favoured, in the market-place or in the church 
yard. Crowds of inquirers flocked at every invitation 
to the vestry or the manse to seek spiritual counsel from 
the minister and his assistants. Prayer-meetings both of 
the old and young sprang up everywhere in the village 
and the surrounding hamlets. The neighbouring exten- 


sion church of Banton, erected through my father s exer 
tions a short time before, and then under the pastoral 
care of the Rev. John Lyon, now of Broughty-Ferry, 
became the scene of a similar work of awakening and 
spiritual blessing. Ministers from all parts of the country, 
and especially from the neighbouring city of Glasgow, 
came to the help of the overtasked pastor, and greatly 
contributed by the richness and variety of their instruc 
tions to impart stability and spiritual substance to a move 
ment which might otherwise have largely evaporated in 
mere excitement. The mountain glen, the solitary haugh, 
even the noisy loom^hop, became vocal often with the 
sounds of prayer and praise, or witnessed the solemn 
converse of brethren who, at eventide, talked with burn 
ing hearts of the things that had come to pass in those 
days. The whole tone and spirit of the place seemed 
for the moment changed, and an air almost Sabbatic 
brooded over it, which strangers recognized as with 
instinctive reverence they approached the spot. In the 
words of a statement read at the time by the minister of 
the parish to the presbytery of the bounds, " The waiting 
on of young and older people at the close of each meet 
ing, and the anxious asking of so many What to do ; the 
lively singing of the praises of God, which every visitor 
remarks; the complete desuetude of swearing and of foolish 
talking in our streets: the order and solemnity at all hours 
prevailing ; the voice of praise and prayer almost in every 
house; the cessation of the tumults of the people; the 
consignment to the flames of volumes of infidelity and 
impurity; the coming together for Divine worship of such 

-ffit. 24.] "THE DESERT SHALL REJOICE." 101 

a multitude of our population day after day; the large 
catalogue of new intending communicants giving in their 
names, and conversing in the most interesting manner on 
the most important subjects; not a few of the old careless 
sinners and frozen formalists awakened and made alive 
to God; the conversion of several poor colliers, who have 
come to me and given the most satisfactory account of 
their change of mind and heart, are truly wonderful 
proofs of a most surprising and delightful revival. The 
public-houses, the coal-pits, the harvest reaping fields, 
the weaving loomsteads, the recesses of our glens, and 
the sequestered haughs around, all may be called to 
witness that there is a mighty change in this place for the 

The subject of this memoir had been obliged to leave 
a few days after the commencement of the remarkable 
scenes just described, in order to resume his duties at 
Dundee, where his work was becoming every day more 
interesting; but on the 2ist of September he was 
again at Kilsyth, taking part in the services of a second 
communion, which the new birth of so many souls, and 
the fresh baptism and abounding joy of others, had 
rendered necessary. It was a season long to be re 
membered, alike for the solemnity and sacred sweetness 
of its services, and for the rich tokens of blessing which 
both accompanied and followed it. To use again the 
grave words of the pastor, "Having been preceded, 
accompanied, and followed by a very unusual copious 
ness of prayer, the showers in answer were very copious 
and refreshing. We are daily hearing of good done to 


strangers who came Zaccheus-like to see what it was, 
who have been pierced in heart and have gone away 
new men. Our own people of Christian spirit have 
been greatly enlivened and strengthened, and some very 
hopeful cases of apparently real beginnings of new life 
have been brought to our knowledge. I feel grateful to 
the God of grace and God of order in the churches, 
that there has been such a concurrence of what is true, 
venerable, pure, just, lovely and of good report, and that 
little indeed has escaped from any of us which can justly 

cause regret The solemn appearance of the 

communion tables, and. the delightful manner in which 
they were exhorted the presence of not a few unusually 
young disciples at the tables the seriousness of aspect 
in all, and the softening and melting look of others 
made upon every rightly disposed witness a very delight 
ful impression. . . . For ninety years, doubtless, there 
has not been in this parish such a season of prayer and 
holy communings and conferences, nor at any period 
such a number of precious sermons delivered. The 
spiritual awakenings and genuine conversions at this time 
are not few, and it is hoped will come forth to victory; 
but the annals of eternity only will divulge the whole." 
At this point my brother s personal journal, which the 
exciting and absorbing labours of the last month had 
almost wholly interrupted, becomes again available, and I 
gladly return to it, as furnishing at once the most authentic 
and most impressive account both of the work in which 
he was engaged and of the part which he himself bore 
in it. 


"Saturday^ist September, 1839. I stayed at Mr. Guthrie s 1 
all night, and started at seven A.M. by the boat for Kilsyth. 
The boat was nearly filled in the cabin by dear brothers and 
sisters in Christ, going to the communion at Kilsyth. We 
had much blessed converse together, and engaged twice in 
prayer and once in praise. We arrived at a quarter to one, 
and found that I was expected to officiate at half-past two 
o clock. I accordingly preached to about a thousand from 
Romans x. 4, with much assistance. On Sabbath, after Mr. 
Rose had preached at the tent, I was called on to follow him ; 
and accordingly preached for about two hours from Isaiah 
liv. 5, to a congregation which, according to a calculation 
founded on the extent of the ground which it occupied, is 
thought to have been little short of ten thousand. They were 
very solemn and attentive, hardly one removing during the 
sermon; and though I did not notice many under visible 
impression, I was told that not a few were in tears, young 
men as well as others. After leaving the tent I went to the 
communion table, which was addressed in a most interesting 
way upon the love of Christ by Mr. Rose. I did not, however, 
experience much near communion with my blessed Lord and 
Saviour, but had to complain of much blindness and dead- 
ness, while my soul was not altogether unmoved through his 
free and infinite grace. After Dr. Dewar, 2 Mr. Middleton of 
Strathmiglo, and Mr. Somerville, 3 had preached at the tent, 
I was called again to preach the evening sermon there at 
seven o clock, while Mr. Rose did so in the church. The 
subject was Isaiah liv. 10, The mountains shall depart/ &c.; 
and I was so much assisted both in exposition and exhorta 
tion, that there was visible among the people a far greater 
awakening than during any part of the day. We continued 
together till between nine and ten, the moon being full and 

1 The Rev. Dr. Thomas Guthrie, then of St. John s Parish, after 
wards of St. John s Free Church, Edinburgh. 

2 Principal of Marischal College, Aberdeen. 
8 Of Anderston Church, Glasgow. 

104 LIFE O p REV - WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1839. 

the sky unclouded, though the mist began to settle in the 
hollow in which the tent was placed. After we had gone 
home, my father and Mr. Rose not having yet come in, it 
struck me, while at tea, that we ought to have a meeting still in 
the church, and continue all night in prayer to God for the 
outpouring of the Spirit. Some objected, but Charles Brown 1 
was completely on my side, saying that he was put in mind 
of that occasion on which the friends of Jesus sought to lay 
hold of him, saying He is beside himself; and accordingly 
we again repaired to the church, where many were already 
assembled joining in prayer with Mr. Martin of Bathgate 
and Mr. Middleton, and after the bell had been rung and the 
church was filled, Charles J. Brown sang and spoke upon 
a part of Psalm Ixxii., and then prayed. When he had 
concluded, Mr. Martin spoke on Psalm xiv. to those still 
unawakened, and engaged in prayer according to concert 
specially for the same class. Mr. Somerville then addressed 
the awakened, but not yet converted, from the account of the 
conversion of Saul, and afterwards prayed for them as Mr. 
Martin had before done for the others. I was then called in 
conclusion to speak more generally to all, and did so at 
considerable length and very calmly from the first four verses 
of the 1 1 6th Psalm, which having been sung the whole was 
concluded with prayer. We separated from this most 
precious meeting, in which not a few were awakened, at 
three A.M. of Monday, and after leaving the church Mr. 
Somerville and I were forced to remain in the session-house 
with the distressed, instructing and praying till between five 
and six o clock, when we went home to rest. The cases in the 
session-house were numerous and very interesting. 

September 23^. Having risen from a refreshing sleep 
at twelve noon, I was told that I was expected to preach 
the second sermon about two at the tent. I was counselled 
by my mother to beware of harsh expressions in preaching 

1 The Rev. Dr. C. J. Brown, then of New North Parish, now of 
New North Free Church, Edinburgh. 


and prayer, and told by J. that she thought there was a 
danger of my losing the former sweetness, as she said, of 
my manner in preaching for an unpleasant sternness. I 
thanked the Lord for this counsel, and was told by her after 
wards that I had been enabled to correct the fault. There 
were an immense number of ministers and preachers at 
the tent on Monday, and I went down under some anxiety, 
as I had no special preparation. However, I was enabled 
in private and public prayer to cast myself on the Lord, 
and he did not prove a wilderness to me, a land of darkness, 
but aided me beyond all my expectations. The text from 
which I spoke was Ezekiel xxxvi. 26, A new heart also 
will I give you/ and I found so much laid to my hand, both 
in expounding and applying the subject, that I could hardly 
get done. There was great attention among the audience, 
which might amount to two thousand, and blessed be God, 
some of the ministers present seemed to be convinced that 
the Lord had helped me to be faithful ; Charles J. Brown and 
John Duncan spoke particularly in this way. In the evening 
Charles J. Brown preached a most excellent discourse in the 
church at eight o clock, from the words in Matthew, What 
do ye more than others? showing ist. Why Christians might 
be expected to do more than others, and 2nd. What more 
they were expected to do. After he had concluded I felt 
deeply impressed with the desirableness of continuing in 
prayer to God, especially with and for the unconverted, whom 
we were, alas ! to leave at the close of this blessed season 
farther in many cases from Jesus than before. I accordingly 
proposed to Charles J. Brown that I should ask the uncon 
verted to stay behind, not excluding others who might also 
desire to do so. He said I should do as I thought best, and 
accordingly after the praise was ended, I asked those who 
knew that they were still unconverted to remain, coming 
down into the front seats below to be addressed and prayed 
for. My thus assigning them particular seats rather alarmed 
and staggered Mr. Brown, and, as I afterwards found, my 


father also and many other of the ministers present ; but as 
no remonstrance was at the time made, and after so many 
had come forward that the seats were fully occupied, and even 

(a young gentleman from Glasgow whom I had been 

conversing with a little before under considerable concern 
about his soul) went into them with a younger brother also 
much affected, as I noticed, during the sermon, when the love 
of Christ was spoken of, Mr. Brown s doubts appeared to 
vanish, and I proceeded, after singing and long-continued 
prayer, to exhort at great length those in the seats and also 
the congregation at large to an immediate closing with 
Christ. In this work I was assisted, I think, as much as 
ever before in my life, having a degree of tenderness and 
affection which my hard, hard heart is rarely privileged to 
feel, and in prayer I was favoured with peculiar nearness to 
God, in so much that at one time I felt as if really in 
contact with the Divine presence, and could hardly go on ; 
while at the same blessed season there seemed to be a 
general and sweet melting of heart among the audience, and 
many of the unconverted were weeping bitterly aloud, though 
I spoke throughout with perfect calmness and solemnity. 
We separated between one and two o clock from this the last, 
and I think, without doubt, the most eminently blessed part 
of the whole communion season, at least in as far as I was a 
witness to it. After the meeting had broken up many went 
to the session-house, where my father had been with not a 
few in distress during the greater part of the meeting, and 
then he and Mr. Rose continued for several hours longer, 
witnessing, as they told us when they came home, the most 
wonderful displays of the Holy Spirit s work." 

"So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed." 
The rest of the history, so far as it can be written or read 
in this world, is soon told. The high spring-tide of ex 
alted feeling, necessarily mingled more or less with mere 
sympathetic excitement, gradually passed away, and the 

JEt. 24.] THE EBBING TIDE. 107 

currents alike of religious experience and of ordinary 
human life flowed once more in their customary channels. 
There were some temporary professors, there were some 
"imperfect conversions," there were some whose bright 
early promise, though not wholly darkened, did not shine 
forth with an altogether unclouded lustre "more and more 
unto the perfect day;" but there were very many too whose 
shining consistency and purity, and steadfast perseverance 
to the end, declared plainly that they had been with 
Jesus, and that in that terrible moment of their soul s 
agony they had been indeed born not of blood, nor of 
the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 
The history of the Kilsyth revival, in short, as of every 
other true revival, whether ushered in by the earthquake 
and the whirlwind or by the still small voice, had in truth 
been written eighteen hundred years before by Him who 
knoweth the end from the beginning: "Behold, a sower 
went forth to sow; and when he sowed, some seeds fell 
by the wayside, and the fowls came and devoured them 
up: some fell upon stony places, where they had not 
much earth; and forthwith they sprung up, because they 
had no deepness of earth : and when the sun was up, they 
were scorched; and, because they had no root, they 
withered away: and some fell among thorns; and the 
thorns sprung up and choked them: but other fell into 
good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundred-fold, 
some sixty -fold, some thirty-fold" 



THE reader will have seen that in turning aside to 
refer to the second communion at Kilsyth, and thus 
bring into one view the history of the remarkable move 
ment there, we have necessarily anticipated somewhat 
the actual course of events in Mr. Burns life. He 
returned to Dundee on the 8th of August, and almost 
immediately on his arrival found himself in the midst of 
scenes essentially similar to, and scarcely less remarkable 
than those he had left behind. "For some time before," 
says Mr. Bonar in his admirable memoirs of M Cheyne, 
"Mr. Burns had seen symptoms of deeper attention than 
usual, and real anxiety in some that had hitherto been 
careless. But it was after his return from Kilsyth that 
the people began to melt before the Lord. On Thursday, 
the second day after his return, at the close of the usual 
evening prayer-meeting in St. Peter s, and when the 
minds of many were deeply solemnized by the tidings 
which had reached them, he spoke a few words about 
what had for some days detained him from them, and 
invited those to remain who felt the need of an outpour 
ing of the Spirit to convert them. About a hundred 

^Et. 24.]. RETURN TO DUNDEE. 1 09 

remained; and at the conclusion of a solemn address to 
these anxious souls, suddenly the power of God seemed 
to descend, and all were bathed in tears. At a similar 
meeting, next evening, in the church, there was much 
melting of heart and intense desire after the Beloved of 
the Father; and on adjourning to the vestry the arm of 
the Lord was revealed. No sooner was the vestry-door 
opened to admit those who might feel anxious to con 
verse, than a vast number pressed in with awful eagerness. 
It was like a pent-up flood breaking forth; tears were 
streaming from the eyes of many, and some fell on the 
ground, groaning, and weeping, and crying for mercy. 
Onward from that evening meetings were held every day 
for many weeks; and the extraordinary nature of the 
work justified and called for extraordinary services. The 
whole town was moved. Many believers doubted; the 
ungodly raged; but the Word of God grew mightily and 

The scenes at Kilsyth were in every essential particular 
repeated here, allowing only for the difference between 
a quiet country village and a large and busy manufacturing 
town. The crowded and solemnized assemblies in the 
church from night to night for months together; the eager 
throngs of inquirers, sometimes so numerous as to form 
themselves a congregation; the varied and weighty in 
structions of ministers, followed generally by more special 
counsels and prayers for those whose overmastering 
anxiety constrained them to remain behind; the number 
less prayer-meetings of old and young, in private rooms, 
in workshops, in retired gardens, in open fields; the 


nightly journey of thirsty souls from far distances in the 
outskirts of the city, and in the rural parishes around; 
the general sensation and spirit of inquiry half-serious, 
half-curious which pervaded more or less the entire 
community, were here as there the salient features of 
a time which none who lived through it, and entered in 
any measure into the feeling of it, can ever have forgotten. 
For its more authentic and inward history, however, I 
now gladly return to Mr. Burns own journal, which after 
a few broken and fragmentary notices, becomes again 
continuous and copious : 

"August 24th. I ought to have been daily recording the 
wonders of the Lord s love in this book, had they not been so 
many that I could not find time to speak of them all. I shall 
now however try to do so regularly, though in the briefest 
form. Since the 2oth, many notable things have occurred. 
The church has been crowded every night, and many have 
been forced to go away without getting in. Mr. Reid assisted 
me on Wednesday, preaching in a very searching manner 
on regeneration from John iii., and Mr. Bonar from Kelso 
followed him on Job xxii. 21. I then myself prayed and 
spoke till near II p.m., on Joel ii. 28-32. On Thursday 
James Hamilton from Abernyte lectured on the young man, 
Mark x. 17, after which I read and commented on a passage 
from Robe s narrative. Last night Mr. Baxter preached with 
much solemnity and more of the freeness of the gospel than 
usual, from Jeremiah xv. 15, after which I read another 
passage from Robe, and before pronouncing the blessing was 
led to speak particularly to Roman Catholics, and of our duty 
towards them. Mr. Roxburgh was there last night. Indeed 
we have daily not a few of the ministers in town and from a 
distance among the audience. On Thursday I was called to 
visit a Roman Catholic family, the mother very ill ; they had 

JEt. 24.] . PROGRESS OF THE WORK. 1 1 1 

been visited by the priest, but were not satisfied, and seemed 
to welcome me. I hear daily many interesting evidences that 
the work of the Lord is going on through his own mighty 
power. Some of the greatest drunkards have been abstaining 
from day to day from their cup of poison that they may 
attend our meetings, and they appear to be daily receiving 
deeper impressions. O Lord ! grant that these may at last 
prove saving. I was told of a man last night who, though 
previously ungodly, had been so much impressed by attending 
the meetings, that his wife, a godly woman, missing him the 
other morning at the breakfast hour, found him in the other 
room on his knees, and again awaking at four in the morning 
and missing him from his bed, she rising found him in the 
same room with his Bible in his hand." 

Here follow a number of interesting cases. 

"August 28//Z. On Saturday evening the congregation was 
large. I preached with very considerable assistance from 
God on Psalm xxxii., particularly with a reference to the day 
of fasting, humiliation, and prayer, which by the recommenda 
tion of the session I was to intimate for Tuesday, the fair-day. 
On Sabbath forenoon I preached with much of God s presence 
and power from John iv. 10, and in the afternoon with still 
greater liberty from Romans viii. 34. In the forenoon the 
church was densely crowded, and in the afternoon every 
corner was filled, so that I could not, without much difficulty, 
force my way to the pulpit; hundreds were forced to be 
excluded. I never felt so powerfully as in the afternoon the 
absolute certainty of the believer s acceptance as righteous 
through Jesus; and the people appeared to be much impressed, 
although I have not yet heard of any new cases of awakening 
or conversion. In the evening I thought it better not to 
preach, in order to save my bodily strength for preaching, as 
I had intimated I would, in the Meadows; but being told that 
a great crowd was assembled, I ran up to renew the charge 


on Satan s hosts, and was told that Mr. Miller 1 a preacher 
from Edinburgh, who had filled Mr. Lewis pulpit during the 
day, and was come along to be a hearer, would gladly assist 
me. When however I went up, the multitude had dispersed, 
and we would have given up thoughts of preaching had not a 
few pressed us to go on. Mr. Miller accordingly preached 
from John iii. 8 to a considerable number, which was rapidly 
increasing when we dismissed. On Monday night Mr. 
Macalister preached a truly admirable gospel sermon from 
John xii. 21, after which I intimated the fast for Tuesday, 
with remarks as I was enabled to make on the subject. We 
particularly agreed to keep from 10 to 1 1 in secret prayer by 
concert. On coming home I found a letter from the magis 
trates interdicting the preaching in the Meadows for Tuesday, 
which did not surprise "me, but led me to meditate solemnly 
on that approaching conflict with the world and Satan in 
which many will probably be called to die for the name of 
Jesus. O Lord ! may Jesus Christ be magnified in me whether 
by life or by death ! I immediately was led to see the pro 
priety of exchanging the Meadows for St. Peter s Churchyard, 
and accordingly next day, at the hour appointed, Mr. Baxter, 
Mr. Miller, and myself, after intimating the will of the magis 
trates in the Meadows, walked, accompanied by a great 
number, from thence to the churchyard, where many were 
already assembled. Mr. Baxter began the services by praise 
and prayer, and I was then called after prayer to preach. I 
had however no enlargement, and after speaking about the 
usual time under great conscious desertion of the Spirit, I 
came to a close. Mr. Miller concluded with prayer and 
praise. In the evening Mr. Miller preached an interesting 
sermon from I Corinthians x. 31, after whom Mr. Walker 
from Edinburgh gave us a precious discourse on Psalm Ixxxix. 
15. I think the Spirit of God was much among the people of 

1 The late Rev. Patrick L. Miller, afterwards of Wallacetown 
(Dundee) and Newcastle. 

&t. 24.] ST. PETER S CHURCHYARD. 113 

God on this occasion, filling them with joy and wonder at the 
free and infinite love of Jehovah. This evening Mr. Walker 
preached an excellent sermon from 2 Corinthians vii. 5, after 
which I began to read Robe, where, finding an allusion to the 
Spirit convincing usually of particular sins, in the first place, 
I was led to speak in very plain terms of many prevailing 
sins, and especially of the peculiar sins of the fair-day. I 
had great liberty from the Spirit of God, I believe, to tell all I 
knew of the truth on these points, and O ! may the Lord 
greatly bless for his own glory all his own truth which any of 
his servants have spoken, and pardon through the blood of 
Jesus all that we have said of our own invention, according to 
the darkness and folly of carnal reason. 

"September id. In the evening Mr. Macalister preached 
an excellent sermon on Song of Solomon ii. 16, after which I 
read Robe s narrative, and engaged in prayer more than 
once for the outpouring of the Spirit, which I think we re 
ceived more signally perhaps than on any former night, if 
we except the very first meetings. There were many crying 
bitterly, one fell down, and when near the end I stopped and 
sat down in silent prayer for five minutes, that all might be 
brought to the point of embracing Jesus. The feeling was 
intense, though most calm and solemn, and to believers very 

"September^. In the evening Mr. Somerville, who is on his 
way home from an excursion of three weeks in search of bodily 
vigour, preached from Genesis iii. 22, &c., a most impres 
sive discourse, under which not a few, I am persuaded, were 
very much revived. After he had concluded and prayed, I 
read Robe, and felt so desirous to press home the glad tidings 
and to call down the Holy Ghost by more importunate 
prayer, that after the blessing had been pronounced I waited 
with nearly as many as could find seats out of the immense 
multitude who had been present till a quarter past eleven, 
partly instructing and exhorting them to an immediate accept 
ance of Jesus, and partly praying for the Holy Ghost. There 



was no visible movement, but I trust some hearts were seen 
by Jesus moving towards him. 

" September 4//, 1839. I had this forenoon a call from Mr. 
Morgan 1 of Belfast, who had heard of the extraordinary move 
ment among us when in Ireland, and being in Scotland felt 
induced to come and see its true character. He and I with 
Mr. Kirkaldy and Mr. Fairweather 2 the preacher, walked 
together a long time on the river side, conversing on the 
subject of the work at Kilsyth and here, after which we came 
into my lodgings and engaged together in Divine worship, 
Mr. Morgan officiating with great suitableness to our present 
state. Before parting he kindly agreed to preach this evening, 
which he accordingly did at the usual hour. His text was 
Romans v. 20, 21. He treated the subject with great clear 
ness and scriptural accuracy, and added many very useful 
directions suited to our present circumstances. He also told 
me of an interesting work of God going on during the last 
three months in Tipperary under Mr. Trench. He had called 
on his people to pray specially for the unconverted, and in 
consequence many were awakened, and already between one 
and two hundred had been to all appearance savingly con 
verted to God. Mr. Morgan is a very interesting and most 
judicious man, and we wonder at the marvellous goodness of 
our God in sending him among us. It is, like all his other 
blessings towards us, to the everlasting praise of the glory of 
his grace. After he had concluded I read as usual a quota 
tion from Robe and made a few remarks upon it. This day 
I also conversed with J. J., who is in a most interesting state, 
and wrote home a letter to the people of Kilsyth." 

Here he begins a fresh volume of the Journal, which 
is inscribed "A Record of the Lord s Marvellous Doings 
for me and many other Sinners at Dundee, 1839," and 

1 Now Dr. Morgan. 

2 Afterwards minister of Free Church, Botriphnie, Banffshire. 


which consists for the first seventy-four pages of notices of 
individual cases of awakening and earnest inquiry, all 
deeply interesting, but too brief and fragmentary to be here 
presented. This part had been evidently examined in the 
following year, in connection with the after history of the 
individuals referred to, by Mr. M Cheyne, in whose hand 
writing I find appended to many of the names such preg 
nant entries as the following: "Holds on her way rejoicing, 
October, 1840;" "I trust goes on well and steadily, Octo 
ber, 1840;" "Admitted her to the communion; she seems 
a true disciple of Christ, October, 1840;" "Admitted her 
joyfully to the Lord s table, April, 1840;" &c. 

"September i^th. I went at two o clock to M Kenzie s 
Square and preached to one or two hundred, many of whom, 
alas! were from other quarters. I spoke from the words, 
i Corinthians xv. 55-57, at first with great want of faith and 
power, but after I had stopped and prayed, with very con 
siderable liberty. When I was just going to begin the last 
prayer two gentlemen came near, whom I supposed to be 
one of our physicians and a friend, who had been passing 
accidentally and been attracted by the sound, but after I had 
done, one of them, a reverend-looking oldish man, was gone, 
and the other came up and told me that this was Csesar 
Malan from Geneva, and that he was Robert Haldane, W.S., 
Edinburgh. I at once recognized him, having sometimes 
called on him in the days of my vanity when with Uncle A. 
in Edinburgh. He told me that Malan was desirous to 
preach this evening, which I intimated with joy to the people 
as they were dispersing. How marvellous are the Lord s 
ways towards me and his people here ! He is sending his 
servants to us from east and west and north and south ! 
Surely he has some great work of his glorious grace to do 
among us. All the glory shall be hist 



"Went to the church, where I met Malan, Mr. Baxter, 
and Mr. M Leod, just translated from the Gaelic chapel, 
Edinburgh. Malan, after solemnly engaging in prayer, went 
to the pulpit, where he again knelt down and prayed for a 
minute or two in silence. He then prayed aloud shortly, 
sang, and then prayed sweetly at greater length. He read 
the I4th of John, and preached from the 27th verse. His 
heads were that the peace of Jesus was, ist, a sovereign 
peace ; 2d, a just peace ; 3d, an all-ruling peace ; 4th, a 
glorious peace. His great design appeared to be to press 
on believers, in the name of Jesus/ the duty of believing that 
they are saved. His teaching seemed to me to differ from 
that which is common among our best ministers, not in hold 
ing that assurance is of the essence of faith, which he seemed 
plainly not to do ; nor m anything at variance with particular 
redemption, which he seemed also to hold distinctly, speaking 
always of Jesus dying for his beloved church, &c. ; but in 
pressing us very specially to believe in the name of Jesus as 
the Son of God with adoration and love, and again pressing 
all who do so to believe that they are saved, because God 
says so, not seeming to notice or to suppose the case of those 
who do not know whether they believe or not. He illustrated 
the effect of true faith in the witness of God by the following 
anecdote: One day when Bonaparte was reviewing some 
troops, the bridle of his horse slipped from his hand and his 
horse galloped off. A common soldier ran and laying hold 
of the bridle brought back the horse to the emperor s hand, 
when he addressed him and said, Well done, captain. The 
soldier inquired, Of what regiment, sire? Of the guards, 
answered Napoleon, pleased with his instant belief in his 

t)rd. The emperor rode off, the soldier threw down his 
i r iisket, and though he had no epaulets on his shoulders, no 

word by his side, nor any other mark of his advancement 
than jthe word of the emperor, he ran and joined the staff of 
commanding officers. They laughed at him and said, What 
have you to do here? He replied, I am captain of the guards. 


They were amazed, but he said, The emperor has said so, and 
therefore I am. In like manner, though the word of God, 
he that believeth hath everlasting life/ is not confirmed by 
the feelings of the believer, he ought to take the word of God 
as true because he has said it, and thus honour him as a 
God of truth, and rejoice with joy unspeakable. He told us 
plainly that we ought not to pray for the beginning of faith in 
Jesus in ourselves, though we might pray for its increase, but 
that we must believe and pray in faith. He seems to fear all 
excitement in divine worship, going to the very opposite 
extreme from the Methodists, saying as he did to me, that this 
leads men away from the simple testimony of God ; and he 
told me he thought I had far too much when he heard me 
speak a few words and pray, in the afternoon. I cannot, 
however, agree with him altogether, and I think many facts 
in regard to the preaching which has been most honoured in 
this land prove that that which is accompanied with the 
deepest impression of the truth on the speaker s soul, and 
consequently most affects the hearers, is in general most 
blessed for leading men to flee from the wrath to come. 

"September i^th. . . . I called at the M. s, and found 
these sisters rejoicing with solemn delight in the death of 
their beloved sister with all its remarkable circumstances, 
which so clearly mark the hand of the gracious Lord who 
has called her to his kingdom and glory! 1 They told me 
many interesting and affecting facts regarding her last days. 
She appears to have fed with remarkable relish upon Christ 
in the word during her last days, and especially the night and 
morning before her departure. I prayed with them, and felt 
drawn uncommonly near to the divine presence of our Father 
in heaven. We entreated earnestly that as the Lord had not 
allowed her to manifest her love to him in the world, he 
might show his love to her by making her death the means 

1 Elizabeth Miller, who died very suddenly, but in the perfect 
peace of God, while conversing with him in the vestry of St. Peter s 
Church, September 13, 1839. 


of quickening many souls. O Lord Jesus, hear this prayer, 
and answer it abundantly to-morrow, yea, to-night ! Coming 
home at six I found many gathered together praying and 
singing praises ; . . . went in and prayed with the young 
men and women in the other room. I had much nearness 
to God with unspeakable composure of soul, which, praise be 
to the Lord, has never been ruffled during these remarkable 
days ; though many of them were very much affected, and 
all seemed to realize eternity and the preciousness of Jesus! 
It was indeed a sweet season. W. L. came and joined the 
meeting with great joy, which broke in upon him with such 
power at the meeting last night, that he went home in trans 
porting ecstasy. This is a sweet youth. Lord, make him a 
minister of thy gospel." . . . 

In the following exalted strains of adoration and fervent 
aspiration he closes the record of a week of incessant, 
but to him delightful labour: "20 minutes to 12 When 
this week is expiring I would again, with praises which 
must echo through all the arches of heaven, set up my 
Ebenezer and say, Hitherto the Lord hath helped me! 
O what a week of mercy and grace and love ! Last week 
was wonderful, this is much more so ; what will the next 
be? Perhaps it may be with Jesus in glory! O that it 
may at least be with Jesus, and that it may redound to 
the eternal glory of his grace in me and many thousands 
of redeemed souls! Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly! 
O scatter the clouds and mists of unbelief which exhale 
afresh from the stagnant marshes in my natural heart, the 
habitation of dragons, and pour afresh upon my ransomed 
soul a full flood of thy divine light and love and joy, in 
the effulgence of which all sin dies, and all the graces 
of the Spirit bloom and breathe their fragrance! Nor 


do I pray for myself alone, but for all my dear friends 

father, mother, brothers and sisters for 

all the people here all the ministers of every name 
whom Jesus hath called to preach his gospel, and for all 
who shall to-morrow hear or read the glad tidings of great 
joy which shall yet be to all people! Lord, hasten the 
latter-day glory! Come quickly, and reign without 
bounds and without end! And now wash me in thy 
blood, whose price I cannot tell, but need to cleanse me, 
so great a transgressor am I. Glory to thee, O Lamb of 
God, and to thee, O Father, and to thee, O Holy Ghost, 
eternal and undivided ! Amen ! " 

And so from day to day and from week to week the 
sacred work of this remarkable time went on the church 
nightly thronged with arrested and deeply solemnized 
multitudes, and every other available hour occupied 
with individual inquirers, who in very deed sought the 
eternal wisdom "as silver, and searched for her as for 
hid treasure." Twenty, thirty, forty, would often come 
to him on this errand in a single day, gathering in little 
groups in an outer chamber and pouring out their hearts 
in united prayer, or in silent and solitary breathings, as 
they waited each their turn for a personal interview. 
Generally at the public assemblies, a large part of the 
audience would remain after the regular services were 
concluded, for further and more special instruction; and 
even when all was over, often at a late hour, eager groups 
would still cling around the preacher as he retired to the 
vestry, in hope of hearing still some last words of part 
ing counsel and prayer. Occasionally even then it was 


scarcely possible to shake off the importunate crowds who 
hung upon the lips of Christ s ambassadors as for their 
lives: "When we left the session-house," he writes on 
September ipth, "we met a great multitude still waiting 
to hear the word, and some of them in tears. Many of 
these came along with Mr. W and me to the west 
end of the town, and when we came to Roseangle, Mr. 

W at my suggestion engaged with them in a parting 

prayer on the highway side, under the starlight faintly 
shining through the dark windy clouds." At one time the 
throng of worshippers was so great, especially during 
a visit of Dr. M Donald of Urquhart, that it was found 
expedient to change the place of meeting from St. Peter s 
to St. David s Parish Church, the largest place of worship 
in Dundee, the use of which was kindly given by the 
minister, the Rev. George Lewis, who himself took a 
deep interest and bore an efficient part in the services. 
The movement may perhaps be said to have reached its 
climax a kind of spring-tide flood at the communion 
season in October, when the late much esteemed and 
highly gifted Mr. Bonar of Larbert, assisted by Messrs. 
Bonar of Kelso, M Donald of Blairgowrie, and Mr. Flyter 
of Alness, dispensed the living bread to a vast concourse 
of hungering souls, "many of whom seemed burning with 
desire after nearness to Jesus." On the evening of the 
day three several congregations were assembled one 
vast assemblage in the church, and two lesser ones formed 
out of its overflow in the adjoining school-rooms, and were 
addressed respectively by Mr. Bonar of Kelso, Mr. Bonar 
of Larbert, and Mr. Burns. " During the whole of this 

JEt. 24.] "AN HIGH DAY." 121 

communion Sabbath," he records in his journal, "there 
was, I am told by the ministers, an unusually deep solem 
nity pervading the audience the result, I trust, of the 
near presence of Jehovah." 

Amidst those solemn scenes Mr. Burns himself re 
mained, in a most remarkable manner, calm and self- 
possessed. The great objects of faith which so mightily 
moved his soul, seemed to tranquillize, whilst they 
solemnized and stirred him, so that he moved from 
day to day in an element rather only of holy and exalted 
feeling than of excitement in the ordinary sense of the 
term. At the close of the most exhausting day of appar 
ently exciting labour, his sleep would be as deep and soft 
as that of a child, and he arose for the next day s toil 
fresh and joyful, as a strong man to run his race. " I 
rose," says he (Sabbath, October 6, 1839), "at half past 
nine, and felt very strong, even after the incessant duties 
of Saturday so wonderfully does the Lord refresh me 
with sweet sleep." And again (November n), "I rose 
this morning at n o clock!! This appeared to be my 
duty after being so long and busily engaged on Sabbath. 
Indeed, it is by sleeping until I am fully refreshed, more 
than by any other means, that my strength has been pre 
served undiminished, or rather, I may say, has increased 
during the excessive labours to which I have been called 
during the last three and a half months." 

In regard to the character of his preaching during this 
period, it would appear from all I have been able to 
learn in regard to it, to have been characterized by great 
fulness, freedom, and rich copiousness of scriptural exposi- 


tion and appeal, by a melting and persuasive unction, 
and even by a clearness and force of thought and diction, 
which, considering the incessant draughts made upon his 
resources, was very remarkable. At the same time, as he 
ever sought to speak, not from the mere remembered 
impression of past convictions, but from the immediate 
and present sense of eternal things, and felt constrained 
either to utter only that which he felt livingly in his soul 
or be silent altogether, his preaching was subject now, as 
ever afterwards, to great variations alike in fulness and 
in power. Thus the alternations of feeling, and conse 
quent liberty of speech, indicated in the following extracts 
are only examples of what we find characteristic of his 
entire ministry : 

"In the evening Mr. Lewis of St. David s preached from 
John x. 10 in a very interesting and edifying way, after which I 
engaged in prayer, and found so much enlargement that I 
continued for more than fifty minutes, and at one time got so 
near a view of the glory of Emmanuel that I could hardly 

"Sabbath, October 6t/i, 1839. I rose at a quarter past nine, 
and felt very strong even after the incessant duties of Satur 
day, so wonderfully does the Lord refresh me with sweet 
sleep. In the forenoon I preached with much comfort, though 
not with much depth of experience or present feeling of the 
truth, from Romans iii. 20, 21. In the afternoon I preached 
from i John i. 3, last clause, and was much more assisted than 
in the forenoon, getting a nearer view of Jehovah, and a 
firmer hold of the truth and also of men s consciences. The 
congregation seemed much solemnized; I saw some young 
converts rejoicing greatly, and during the last Psalm a young 
woman was so deeply wounded that she could not restrain 
her feelings, and cried aloud for mercy from the Lord. In 

Mt. 24.] EBBS AND FLOWS. 123 

the evening I preached in Hiltown church from Job xxxiii. 
23, 24. At first, and especially when I should have spoken 
of the Lord s terrors from the words going down to the pit/ 
I was much deserted, and was forced to be both bare and 
brief; but when I came to speak of the Lord s love and mercy 
I got such an insight into the subject that its glorious grace 
almost overcame me, the tears were flowing from my eyes, 
and I was enabled to speak with some degree of tenderness 
both in expounding the truth and in afterwards applying it to 
men s hearts. I could not but thank the Lord for restraining 
me from too much terror, and giving me on this occasion a 
message of love, perhaps, to some of the gainsayers. The 
crowd was most dense, and many hundreds were standing 
without or obliged to go away. A blessed Sabbath." 

But anon the Beloved had withdrawn Himself and was 

"Friday, October loth. Mr. M Donald met me along with 
Mr. Millar at Mr. Thain s gate, and we drove up together, 
praying each by himself for the solemn work of the evening. 
On arriving, we found Mr. Gillies and Mr. Mitchell of Persie 
Chapel waiting us. With these dear brethren we had much 
prayer, but I was too little in secret, partly from want of time 
and partly from feeling the need of mental relaxation after 
the all-engrossing and incessant duties of the previous days. 
I went in consequence to the pulpit under a load of self- 
dependence, and with much unbelief, which combined to 
intercept or prevent the rich communications of the power 
of the Spirit. I was, in consequence, in a considerable mea 
sure left to myself, and though in the first prayer, after strug 
gling long to get through the clouds which shut out my soul 
from the light of God s countenance, I did get some sweet and 
melting glimpses of Emmanuel at the Father s right hand; yet 
in preaching, which I did from Isaiah liv. 5, I was confined 
almost entirely to exposition of doctrine, and was not allowed 

124 LIFE O F R EV- WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1839. 

to open and search and alarm the consciences of the secure 
by any hortatory application of the subject." 

Amid these engrossing and abundant labours in the 
field of service specially allotted to him, he found time 
also for occasional evangelistic excursions to other places, 
the results of which were sometimes interesting. Thus, 
instead of returning straight home from the communion 
at Kilsyth, referred to in last chapter, he made a rapid 
visit to Paisley, where he preached in the High Church 
to a densely crowded audience, "with much assistance, 
from Job xxxiii. 23;" and " saw not a few in tears," as he 
was himself "considerably moved, not so much when 
preaching, as when expounding briefly Philippians ii. 5-9." 
On his way to Paisley an incident occurred which is 
worth recording, as characteristic alike of the time and of 
the man: 

" Tuesday, September 24th. In the afternoon, when on my 
way to Paisley, I had hardly seated myself in the Glasgow 
boat when an acquaintance (John Marshall, Auchinsterrie) 
said to me, You should have worship here. Of course if it 
is agreeable to all it will be agreeable to me. All seemed 
anxious for this, and the next minute the Captain came saying, 
Will you allow me to open the steerage door as the passengers 
there would like to hear? This of course we gladly agreed to, 
and in a few minutes I found myself, to my own joyful aston 
ishment, standing at the partition door and praying with the 
whole company. We also sang more than once; and I would 
have expounded a passage, but I had a little hoarseness and 
did not see it to be my duty to expose myself when I had so 
much of the most important work before me." 

The next day he preached in the forenoon at Kirkin- 


tilloch, and in the evening at Denny, where we catch a 
characteristic glimpse of one lofty alike in stature and in 
moral bearing, whom all who were present at the convo 
cation of the ministers of the Church of Scotland in 1842 
will remember as perhaps the most striking figure in that 
assembly : " There was a most densely crowded audience, 
to whom I preached with considerable assistance from 
Romans iii. 19, 22. Having ended at twelve o clock, 
Mr. Dempster, who seemed all on fire with earnestness 
for a blessing on his people, came up and said a few words, 
adding, that if any still desired to hear more of the gospel, 
Mr. Duncan 1 would be glad to preach again." 

The following extracts, the first of them deeply touching 
and characteristic, will afford a glimpse of some of his 
labours elsewhere: 

"Edinburgh, October i6th, 1839. This forenoon I visited, 
after seeing several cases privately, the Orphan Hospital, 
under the government of my dear friend M Dougall, with 
whom I one dark evening prayed in Bute upon some lonely 
rocks by the sea-shore, and a pious matron, Mrs. Dickson. 
In the governor s room I saw a fine picture of Whitefield, 
who was a great favourer of this institution, and when I went 
into the little pulpit of the chapel, saw the dear orphans so 
neatly clad and so beautifully arranged before me, and began 
to read Psalm ciii., Such pity as a father hath/ &c., I felt 
quite overpowered by a feeling of sympathy with these dear 
children in their orphan state, mingled with grateful wonder 
at the love of God in dealing so kindly with them. In prayer 
also I had considerable enlargement, but particularly in 
speaking from 2 Corinthians viii. 9, and telling them some 
anecdotes, I felt unusually melted myself, and yearned over 

1 Of Milton Church, Glasgow, now of New College, Edinburgh. 


them, I think, in the bowels of Jesus Christ. Some of the 
boys and girls were crying, and when I bade them farewell, 
they unwillingly and with many tears withdrew. O Lord, 
think upon each of these dear children, convert them all to 
thyself through Jesus, and raise up from among the boys a 
great band of holy and devoted ministers and missionaries 
of Jesus! It was with peculiarly affecting feelings that I 
hurriedly bade adieu to this most interesting institution, 
running to be in time to visit, as I had promised, the Green- 
side Female School, under the conduct of Miss Haldane and 
other pious ladies. 

"Edinburgh, November \st. I spent the whole of this 
forenoon till half-past twelve in private with the Lord, and 
enjoyed more of his glorious presence humbling and elevating 
my soul than I have had for some time past when alone (O ! 
for a day every week to spend entirely in the secret of his 
presence !) At one o clock I preached for the Senior Female 
Society in St. George s Church to a congregation composed 
of the genteel society of Edinburgh. I was carriedy#r above 
the conscious desire of the favour, and the conscious fear of 
man; and in preaching from Isaiah xlii. 21, I felt much more 
of the presence of the Holy Spirit enlightening my mind in 
the knowledge of Christ, and melting my heart under a view 
of his glory and his love, than I have for some time enjoyed 
in public. 

"November ^th. At two o clock I set out for St. Andrews 
in company with James Hamilton, where we arrived at half- 
past four, and found Mr. Lothian come to dinner to meet me 
at Dr. Briggs . At seven o clock we adjourned to the place 
of meeting, which was fixed to be the Secession church, 
holding about five hundred, in consequence of my aunt having 
been led to understand that I would not be allowed the parish 
church. This, however, does not seem to have been the case, 
as Dr. Buist, when he heard it rumoured that he had refused 
me his church, wrote to aunt, saying that it was a mistake, 
and that he would give it if desired. The church was 

Mt. 24.} VISIT TO ST. ANDREWS. 127 

crowded by the elite of the town, including Sir David Brew- 
ster, &c. Mr. Taylor 1 , the minister, began with singing and 
prayer, and after Mr. Lothian had said a few words, I entered 
the Secession pulpit and preached after prayer and praise to 
a most attentive and solemnized audience from Isaiah xlii. 21. 
A number of individuals remained to converse about the state 
of their souls, most of them deeply affected, and some of them 
only for the first time. 

"After visiting Mrs. C , an interesting Christian widow, 

who travails in birth again for her children, that Christ may 
be formed in them, and praying with her and two of her dear 
children, I went at eleven to Mr. Lothian s; and after he had 
prayed and said a few words I spoke for a little to about fifty 
or sixty people from John iv. 10. Many were silently weeping, 
though, alas ! my own hard heart did not feel so tenderly as 
at some other times. We bade them all farewell at the door, 
leaving many in tears as we went into the curricle that was 
to convey us back to Dundee. On our way James H. and I 
both prayed and had much conversation about the glorious 
work in which we were engaged, the hopeful symptoms of an 
approaching revival in St. Andrews, and the necessity of 
making full proof of our ministry, taking up our cross and 
following Jesus whithersoever he goeth. There are a few 
names even in this poor desolate place that have not defiled 
their garments, and who begin to take pleasure in the stones 
of Zion and to favour her very dust. O Lord! do thou 
appear in thy glory among them, and turn all their hearts as 
the heart of one man to thyself. Father, glorify thy Son; 
glorify thine own name. Amen. 

"O Lord Jehovah! grant to me a heart for Jesus sake to 
praise thee with becoming love for all the most marvellous 
displays of thy love and mercy which I the chief of sinners 
am permitted to behold from day to day. Breathe on me, O 
Holy Ghost ! for the glory of Emmanuel, and fill my soul with 
seraphic love, and my tongue with holy and unceasing praise, 

1 The Rev. James Taylor, D.D., now of Glasgow. 


and O ! draw by thy omnipotent grace all these dear inquiring 
souls to the blood and the bosom of that adorable Emmanuel 
whom they seek after, and whom thou earnest to glorify in 
the hearts of sinners. Amen." 

On Thursday, November 23, Mr. M Cheyne returned 
from the interesting mission which had led to Mr. Burns 
temporary occupancy of his pastoral charge, and from that 
time accordingly his official connection with St. Peter s 
Church and congregation closed. The following extracts 
will show the feelings with which he ended this first, and 
in some respects most eventful period of his home ministry, 
and the tender bond of sacred affection which still, in 
parting, bound him alike to that people and their pastor : 

"Had a letter from dear Mr. M Cheyne, written in a spirit 
of joy for the work of the Lord, which shows a great triumph, 
I think, of divine grace over the natural jealousy of the 
human heart. O Lord, I would praise thee with all my 
heart for this, and would entreat that when thy dear servant 
the pastor of this people is restored to them, he may be 
honoured a hundredfold more in winning souls to Christ than 
I have been in thine infinite and sovereign mercy. Amen. 

"Sabbath, November ijth, 1839. . . . In applying the 
subject I was remarkably aided, and just as I was concluding 
it came into my mind that though I might probably preach 
to the people again, yet that now I had reached the termina 
tion of my ministry, and this gave me an affecting topic from 
which to press home the message more urgently (subject 
"Union to Christ," John xv.) The season was indeed one 
that I shall never forget. Before me there was a crowd 
of immortal souls all hastening to eternity, some to heaven, 
and many I fear to hell, and I was called to speak to them, 
as it were, for the last time, to press Jesus on them, and to 
beseech them to be reconciled to God by the death of his 
Son. . . . After I had intimated that Mr. M Cheyne was 


expected to be here on Thursday, I spoke a few words on my 
leaving them, but I was so much affected that I could say but 
little, and I felt that it was a cause of praise that the Lord 
hid from me so much of what is affecting in my present 
circumstances, though I believe it were good both for the 
people and myself to feel this much more. The people retired 
very slowly when we had dismissed about five o clock, and 
many waited in the passage and in the gallery until I retired, 
who wept much when I was passing along, and obliged me 
to pray with them in the passage again. When I came out 
I met with many of the same affecting tokens of the reality 
of my approaching separation from a people among whom 
the Lord, in his sovereign and infinite mercy, has shown me 
the most marvellous proofs of his covenant love, and from 
among whom, I trust, he has taken, during my continuance 
among them, not a few jewels to shine for ever in the crown 
of Emmanuel the Redeemer ! Glory to the Lamb that was 

"November i%th. I spent the greater part of this day 
alone, excluding all visitors, with the exception of the M. s 
of Roseangle, with the B. s, and Miss H., who called and 
conversed with me together about the work of God. I 
wished retirement, partly to rest and partly to write to Mr. 
M Cheyne and a number of other persons in different places, 
who must be considering me the most careless correspondent 
that could be imagined. I was tired, however, and was 
obliged to go out a considerable part of the day, so that I 
only got five pages written to Mr. M Cheyne. Truly the 
work of the Lord is marvellous when I begin to look back 
upon it from the beginning. It must engage my harp and 
my tongue, with those of countless multitudes of the redeemed 
in glory, throughout the endless ages of eternity. 

"Friday, November 2^d, 1839. I got safely home at four 
o clock (from Dunfermline), and after dining wifch Mr. Thorns 
at five I met Mr. M Cheyne at his own house at half-past six, 
and had a sweet season of prayer with him before the hour of 



the evening meeting. We went both into the pulpit; and 
after he had sung and prayed shortly, I conducted the 
remaining services, speaking from 2 Samuel xxiii. 1-5, and 
concluding at ten. We went to his house together and con 
versed a considerable time about many things connected with 
the work of God, and his and my own future plans and 
prospects. I find he preached to a densely crowded audience 
on Thursday night, and with a very deep impression, from 
I am determined to know nothing among you/ &c. He 
seems in but weak health, and not very sanguine about ever 
resuming the full duties of a parish minister. O Lord, spare 1 
thy servant, if it be for the glory of thy name, and restore his 
full strength that he may yet be the means of winning many 
souls for Jesus. Amen." 



WITH the return of Mr. M Cheyne, Mr. Burns stated 
labours at Dundee necessarily came to a close, and 
though the somewhat delicate state of his friend s health 
still for a season rendered his assistance in pastoral 
work more or less needful, his movements became hence 
forth of a more varied and desultory kind. On the 27th 
he was at Abernyte, of which his endeared friend Mr. 
Hamilton was then the assistant minister, where he 
addressed a crowded audience from the words, "God so 
loved the world," &c. "The people seemed much solemn 
ized, and at the close a few were shedding silent tears. 
Mr. Wilson, the old minister, stayed till near the end (about 
twelve o clock), and seemed much interested; and dear 
James Hamilton, who I think is decidedly growing in grace, 
spoke to the people a little towards the end in a very close 
and affecting way." From thence he proceeded to Bridge of 
Earn, where, though he complained that he "did not feel 
particularly assisted in preaching, and was much humbled, 
on coming out, from a view of his own want of simple 
and supreme desire for the divine glory," he enjoyed 
much the congenial society of the minister, Mr. Gumming, 

132 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1839-40. 

and rejoiced to hear of some hopeful tokens of a 
coming blessing on his field of labour. "Pray on," Mr. 
Somerville had said at the close of the communion 
services the week before, "and you will soon have a re 
vival here." Next morning he was in Perth, and had his 
first sight of a field already white unto the harvest, and 
in which he was soon to spend many a day of abounding 
but delightful labour: 

"Friday, November 2gt/t, 1839. I had intended to leave 
Perth this morning by ten o clock, but was prevailed on by 

Miss M , whom I saw at the Bridge of Earn, to think 

of remaining till four P.M.*, and then thought I might as well 
stay all night and preach among them ; accordingly I came 
to Perth at one o clock, and having met Andrew Gray at 

Mrs. M s, where I took up my lodging, it was agreed 

that I should preach in his church at seven o clock. Some 
men were accordingly sent round to give intimation, and 
short and partial as the notice was, the church was crowded, 
and hundreds went away who could not get admittance. I 
preached from Job xxxiii. 24, and had unusual liberty through 
out. We did not separate till near eleven, and I am per 
suaded that had I had time to wait there were not a few who 
were in deep anxiety about their souls ; as it was, two men 
and four or five women came up after me to the vestry under 
deep concern. 

"Saturday, November y>th, 1839. I this morning met at 
breakfast Andrew Gray and Mr. Milne, who has just been 
settled in St. Leonard s Church, and with them I walked about 
on the quay for a considerable time waiting for the boat, 
which was considerably behind her time owing to the flood 
in the river, and had much interesting conversation. Both 
of these dear friends, but especially Mr. Milne, seem deeply 
anxious for a stirring among the dry bones in poor Perth, 


where they are very many and very dry, and both kindly 
pressed me to come back to them soon." 

He returned to Dundee, but only on his way to St. 
Andrews, to which he had been strongly urged to return 
with the view of following up the impression created at 
his first visit : 

"Sabbath^ November 3U/, 1839 I preached in the fore 
noon for Mr. Robb at Strathkinnes text, John xv. During 
the first prayer I had great nearness to God. Riding straight 
home I went almost immediately to the parish church, and 
there preached to an immense audience, including Drs. 
Haldane, Buist, &c., Professor Jackson of the divinity chair, 
Sir D. Brewster, Mr. Gillespie, &c. Before all these learned 
men, blessed be the Lord, I was not allowed to feel in the least 
abashed, but testified the gospel of the grace of God to them 
all with as much plainness and liberty as on most other 
occasions subject, Job xxxiii. 24. I preached to a most 
densely crowded audience in the evening in the Secession 
Church, with more enlargement than during the day, from 
Isaiah liv. 5. At half-past nine I went home, feeling less 
fatigued than in the morning, though I had spoken for be 
tween seven and eight hours. 

"Monday, December ist, 1839. This morning I preached 
to the inquirers, in Mr. Lothian s church at eleven o clock, 
from Psalm li., upon repentance. It was a solemn season. 
At two o clock I met the fishermen in the Secession Church, 
and preached to them in as nautical a mode as I could 
command, feeling much supported. At eight o clock I 
lectured to a crowded audience in the Secession Church from 
Luke vii. 36-52. It was an affecting subject, and not a few 
of the people as well as myself appeared to be in a very 
tender frame. On coming down from the pulpit many came 
to bid me farewell, with whom I was led by circumstances 
to stand and speak for a considerable time. Many at this 

134 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1839-40- 

time were weeping profusely, and / hope the Holy Spirit was 
sealing some souls to the day of redemption." 

These hopes were not disappointed. "To many," says 
an old disciple, whose name will long be fragrant in the 
city and neighbourhood of St. Andrews, " that season, I 
trust, was the birth-time of their souls, and to believers 
a time of great revival and refreshment. To me, it 
was a feast of fat things, and I trust of great blessing. 
Certainly I never heard the gospel message so clearly 
preached, so unfettered, so unbeclouded; and as faith 
cometh by hearing, so faith came to my soul, and, out 
of obscurity, I saw and felt the love of God in a way so 
melting and so overflowing as to make me weep. May 
I never lose the impression produced by that sermon 
from these words: He that believeth doth enter into 
rest* and another also from Mr. Wight, Hold fast the 
beginning of your confidence steadfast unto the end. 
What an exhibition of the fulness and freeness and com 
pleteness of salvation to the believing soul ! " Doubting 
Castle" was quite demolished; every chain struck off; 
closed lips opened to shout for joy and sing praise to 
our redeeming God." . . . 

On the 6th December he expresses himself as "in 
great difficulty in knowing my own duty, whether to 
remain steadily in Dundee or to visit it only among the 
many places which seem at present ripe for the harvest." 
In the meantime, however, he continues his evangelistic 
excursions, guided simply by the calls which immediately 
pressed upon him, and having no other plan than that of 
doing what his hand found to do, and doing it with his 

JEt. 24-25.] WORDS BY THE WAYSIDE. 135 

might. The next entry is interesting, as illustrating the 
manner in which he unweariedly sought to sow the 
precious seed beside all waters, scarcely ever losing an 
opportunity of speaking a word in behalf of his Master 
wherever there was a human ear to hear it, whether in the 
house or by the way, on the top of a coach, on the deck 
or cabin of a boat, or to the random travellers on a country 
road. Instances of this occur perpetually, and in every 
variety of circumstances, in his journal, and give perhaps 
more than anything else in his life and ministry, the im 
pression of one who lived for nothing else but to serve 
and glorify Christ. It is touching often to mark how 
eagerly and thankfully he hailed such opportunities, not 
as calls to the discharge of a difficult duty, but as 
special tokens of the divine mercy and favour towards 
himself. To give him the liberty of conducting divine 
worship and delivering the message of grace, at any time 
or in any place where a few immortal souls were gathered 
together, was to lay him under the deepest of all obliga 
tions. Thus no one who ever spent the briefest time 
alone with him, or even met him casually by the way, 
could for a moment doubt that in the truest and fullest 
sense to him "to live was Christ:" 

" Thursday, December $th, 1839. I this day went by coach 
from Dundee to Cumbernauld. ... At Cumbernauld I 
left the coach, after giving tracts to all on it and in it (a 
practice which I intend to follow wherever I go, as eminently 
calculated to advance the salvation of souls), and walked over 
the hill towards Kilsyth. I first made up to two boys going 
home from school, who seemed very ignorant of Jesus. I spoke 
to them, gave them tracts, and shortly prayed with them on 

136 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1839-40. 

the road. I next met Mr. Lusk going home, with whom I 
also prayed on the road. At the Craigmarloch Bridge I met 
widow Mitchell and her daughter Agnes, an old school 
companion of my own. With them I prayed going for a little 
into the house. At home I found all well my father absent 
at the presbytery, and expected to return in the evening with 
some minister to officiate in the evening meeting. This 
duty, however, was devolved upon me. ... I preached from 
Ephesians v. I, chiefly seeking the edification of those lately 
converted to the Lord. During the service my father and Dr. 
Smyth 1 of Glasgow came in. It was delightful indeed for me 
to meet, after the congregation dismissed, with many of the 
dear lambs of Jesus fold, who appeared to be growing in faith 
and love both towards Jesus and towards each other. All 
the road home was strewed with little groups of these dear 
believers waiting to welcome me back among them and re 
ceive some word of exhortation." 

One object he had had in coming to the west had been 
to address once more the members of the Glasgow Uni 
versity Missionary Society, which had formed so important 
a link in the history of his higher life, and with which so 
many hallowed associations were connected. Difficulties, 
however, had arisen in obtaining the use of the usual 
place of meeting within the University, and he was con 
strained to content himself with a few hours of private, 
but to him most delightful intercourse with some of those 
who were most like-minded with himself in regard to the 
great cause he had come to plead. Meanwhile, important 
work was awaiting him in another quarter, where he was 
not expected, but much desired : 

"Saturday, December jth. In the afternoon I sailed down 

1 Minister of St. George s Parish, Glasgow. 


the Clyde, but was in a very dead frame of soul, and could 
hardly bring myself to speak for Jesus to any of the passengers. 
Indeed, though it is always duty to be doing the work of an 
evangelist, it is a duty entirely dependent upon the prior one 
of living in the Spirit. It is a fearful sin to be going through 
the world with a light kindled by the Holy Ghost to guide 
sinners to Jesus, and yet to carry this as a dark lantern which 
can give no benefit to any one. But ah ! how vain is it, on 
the other hand, to hold up a lamp to one when the light is 
almost out, and the oil is nearly done ! May I always be like 
a lamp full of oil (the Holy Spirit), burning brightly with the 
love of Christ, and guiding those that are in darkness to the 
strait gate and narrow way that leadeth unto life ! 

" Before I left the boat I spoke to a young woman from 
Gourock, whom I saw in mourning, and who, I found, had 
lost within the last six years her father and mother, and her 
uncle and aunt, with whom she went to live after her parents 
died. She seemed anxious, but in great danger of settling 
on the quicksands of legality. I gave her a copy of Ralph 
Erskine s sermon on the Harmony of the Divine Attributes. 

"At Port- Glasgow I found the Simpsons all well, and was 
delighted to find that I had indeed come opportunely, and 
according to a marvellous dispensation of the Lord s provi 
dence. Mr. Kennedy, expecting my brother I to preach 

his first sermon in his church on Sabbath, had agreed to go 
to Greenock on that day, and fill Mr. Smith s pulpit in his 
absence at Rutherglen communion, but, to his dismay, on 

Saturday morning he got a letter from I saying that he 

could not come, and that Mr. K. was mistaken in supposing 
that he had ever given a promise to do so. Mr. K. was just 
sitting with the letter in his hand, and hardly knowing what 
to say or do, when Mr. Simpson came in and showed him my 
letter from Glasgow, which I had written without any concert 

with I , intimating that I would be in Port-Glasgow on 

Sabbath, and that I would wish him if possible to secure Mr. 
Smith of Greenock s pulpit for me one half of the day the 

138 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1839-40- 

very pulpit which Mr. K. had agreed to fill. It was accord 
ingly fixed that I should preach forenoon and evening in 
Port-Glasgow, and afternoon in Greenock. 

"Sabbath, December &th, 1839. In the forenoon of this 
hallowed day I lectured to Mr. Kennedy s people from 
Romans iii. 19. They seemed attentive. Riding down to 
Greenock, I preached, with considerable liberty from the fear 
of man, and desire for the glory of God in the salvation of 
sinners, from Job xxxiii. 24. Riding home again I preached 
to a crowded audience from Isaiah xlii. 21. . . . After 
coming home I enjoyed with the Simpsons a sweet season of 
communion, especially at family worship. Dear and godly 
Mr. Simpson seemed full of the Holy Ghost, &c. . . . 

" Monday, December gtb, 1839. At Paisley I stayed with 
my dear sister till twelve o clock, when I set out by coach for 
Glasgow. She has indeed been sorely chastened, but it has 
been in infinite mercy, and she seems to be becoming through 
this means in the hand of a redeeming God and Father, a 
partaker of his holiness. Praise to the Lord ! 

"After being an hour and half alone at Uncle I s, I 

went down to a prayer-meeting of our Missionary Society 
Committee at Mr. Govan s. 1 There were about sixteen 
present. Mr. Govan began with prayer, and after we had 
sung I then read and spoke for some time with much com 
fort from a part of the 68th Psalm : O God ! thou to thine 
heritage/ &c. ; after which we sang a part of this sweet Psalm, 
and prayed, the service devolving upon me. After the bless 
ing was pronounced, the memorial to the Senatus was read, 
and as its success was closely connected with the glory of the 
Lord in the salvation of the students, I suggested that we 
ought to lay it before the Lord in special prayer before we 
separated. Mr. Stevenson 2 accordingly prayed with us in 
regard to it ; and we parted, seeming to have all enjoyed our 
meeting, and some of us at least having, I trust, found it a 

1 Now a Missionary of the Free Church, Lovedale, Africa. 

2 Now Minister of the Free Church, Pulteney Town, Wick. 


meeting with the Lord Jehovah, the portion of Israel. It 
seemed to us a token for good that the Lord by his providence 
had shut us up, beyond our own intention, to begin our 
missionary meetings with one for prayer alone, a thing which 
we had never before done. Before parting I pressed upon 
my dear brethren the necessity of labouring for the conver 
sion of the students of their own acquaintance, and of having 
prayer-meetings to which to invite such as might be under 
some concern about salvation, though not far enough ad 
vanced to take part in conducting such meetings. 

" Tuesday, December loth, 1839. . . . . Preached to the 
dear Kilsyth flock in the evening from John xv. 1.2.... I 
had in the afternoon of this day several very interesting con 
versations with particular individuals as widow Miller, a 
remarkable old woman, who was converted on Monday 
evening, July 29th, in the meal-market, while I was speaking 
after Mr. Somerville had concluded. She appears to be 
making marvellous progress in the knowledge and love of 
Emmanuel, and being naturally of a superior cast of mind, 
she makes the most beautiful and striking remarks ; she said, 
for instance, Oh ! you must rouse them, you must rouse them 
to-night, just as a mason drives his chisel with his mell upon 
the stones ; and are we not all stones rough stones, till God 
hew and polish us? You roused them before, just as if you 
were to put a cold hand on a man s warm face. She said 
also to a poor old beggar, Oh! you must be made new 
Robby; it s old Robby with you yet. I was old Betty, but 
I am new Betty now, and you must pour out your old heart 
before the Lord and get a new one, c." 

After brief visits to Bo ness, Dunfermline, and other 
places by the way, he reached Dundee once more on the 
23d, and thence proceeded two days after to Perth, in 
which he was to find his chief scene of labour for several 
months to come. 

The nature of the field on which he now entered, as 

140 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1839-40. 

well as the character of him with whom especially it was 
his lot there to labour, will be familiar to very many of my 
readers from the admirable memoir of Mr. Milne, lately 
given to the world by Dr. Horatius Bonar. He was 
indeed "a man greatly beloved," and a true and worthy 
"yoke-fellow" of the subject of these pages throughout the 
whole course of those memorable days. Of one mind and 
of one heart, of differing gifts, but of equal devotedness 
and singleness of purpose in the service of Christ, they 
fought the good fight side by side, without a dream of 
personal rivalry, or any other thought whatever, but that 
of "striving together for the faith of the gospel." It was 
especially admirable to mark the perfect self-abnegation 
with which the young and gifted pastor saw his work, as it 
were, for the moment taken out of his hands ere ever he 
had almost entered on it; and rejoiced in the fruit of his 
brother s labours even as though it were his own, content 
either to thrust in his own sickle or to see the harvest 
reaped by another hand, so only the Master s garner were 
filled. Closely linked together in life, in affection and in 
sympathy, it was interesting to many also to notice that 
in death they were not long divided, having been called 
to their eternal rest within a few weeks of one another, 
and both at a comparatively early age, having lived much 
and long in a little time. 

The rapid and pregnant brevity of the first notices of 
Mr. Burns labours here indicate at once the remarkable 
power with which the sacred movement set in almost from 
the first day of his arrival on the scene, and the incessant 
and absorbing occupation which in consequence devolved 

JEt. 24-23.] FIRST DAYS IN PERTH. 141 

upon him. His days and nights were so filled up with 
acts, and with those intense exercises of soul which are 
the living breath of acts, that he had little time either to 
narrate or describe : 

December 2Stk, 1839. Took up my abode at Mrs. M. s, 
my kind friend, at 2 King s Place. Agreed to preach twice 

"Sabbath, December 2gth, 1839, forenoon. Preached in 
East Church, Dr. Esdaile s. I was not left to myself, I hope. 
Subject, Isaiah xlii. 21 ; time too short to allow of sufficient 
fulness ; church full, the gay people of Perth the magistrates 
present. Afternoon, St. Leonard s, great crowd; subject, 
conversion, Matthew xviii. 3; more aided than ever before 
on this text, I think; solemnity deep. Inquirers invited to 
meet at seven in the evening, and at one P.M. on Monday. 
Evening: about one hundred and fifty were present. The 
Lord was very near. . . . We had to continue together till 
about eleven o clock. . . . This was a meeting very similar 
to some of the Lord s most gracious visits at Kilsyth and 
Dundee. Praise and glory to his matchless name ! 

"Monday, December y>th, 1839. From two to three hun 
dred were present at one o clock ; a solemn season ; separated 
about four. Evening; an immensely crowded audience in 
the Gaelic Church; subject, Isaiah liv. 5, first clause; much 
aided; great solemnity; some in tears. After the blessing 
spoke a little to some that lingered ; much affected. I was 
pressed by them to go into the session-house. It was over 
flowing ; all in tears nearly. Sang, read, spoke and prayed 
for an hour they would not go ; Mr. Stewart concluded with 
prayer, the tears were standing in his eyes ; indeed it was an 
affecting scene ! 

"December $isf, 1839, forenoon. Meeting at one, a few 
hundreds present; Mr. Cumming, who had promptly answered 
our call for aid, began. I then followed upon Psalm ex. 3 ; a 
solemn meeting ; when it was ended the vestry was filled with 

142 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1839-40. 

weepers, with whom we had to pray and sing a long time. 
Evening in Mr. Turnbull s church, at seven o clock; subject, 
Matthew xi. 28 ; dense crowd. Meeting at ten o clock in St. 
Leonard s Church, to bring in the New Year. We all took 
part in the service, Mr. Gumming first, Mr. Milne second, 
and myself third; we separated about one o clock on the 
New Year s morning ; a sweet season. I never brought in the 
New Year so sweetly before. 

"Wednesday, January ist, 1840. Meeting forenoon from 
eleven to four; Mr. Gumming, Mr. Milne, and myself 

"Friday, January -$d, 1840. Meeting in the forenoon in 
Kinnoul Street Church, Mr. Bonar of Collace present, and 
officiated along with Mr. Milne, Mr. Turnbull, and myself. 
We met with many interesting cases in the vestry. I went 
off to Dundee at four o clock, and left Mr. Bonar to officiate 
in the evening. He preached to a most densely crowded 
audience in St. Leonard s Church, from the Ethiopian 
eunuch ; Mr. Milne also spoke, and it is said to have been 
a most solemn season, not a few in tears. 

"Sabbath, January ^th, 1840, forenoon. Sat in St. 
Leonard s, Mr. Milne on the barren fig-tree. Afternoon, I 
preached in Mr. Gray s on Ezekiel xxxvi. 26, ist clause. 
Evening, in Dr. Findlay s immense church, from 2 Cor. v. 2 1 ; 
very much aided in exposition and application; densely 
crowded ; thousands went away, I am told, without getting in. 
Glory to the Lamb!" 

Prayer, temptation, and deep humiliation of soul, as 
usual, prepared the way for more abounding joy and 
strength : 

"Friday, January lotk, 1840. In the evening I spoke 
from Romans v. i, but felt much straitened, and was so filled 
with self-complacency, vain elation, and spiritual blindness, 
that I had to stop in a very short time and felt called on to 
tell the people that I believed, and had been made to feel for 

yt. 24-25.] FIRST DAYS IN PERTH. 143 

some days, that unless we were humbled under God s mighty 
hand and the people ceased from their idolatrous confidence 
in instruments and looked more to God alone, I was con 
vinced his work would not go on, &c. 

" Saturday, January nth, 1840. I was alone during the 
greater part of the day seeking humiliation before the Lord, 
and began through grace to discover how far, alas ! I have 
fallen from that contrition of soul for sin which I once en 
joyed. Lord, I am indeed set in slippery places. Lord, 
humble me and keep me from falling into the snare of the 
devil ! 

"Sabbath, January iith, 1840, afternoon. Preached in 
Mr. Gray s from Romans xii. i, with some degree of broken- 
ness of heart and comfort in the Lord. Evening, preached 
in Dr. Findlay s from Ephesians iv. 30, on the work of the 
Holy Spirit. It was a solemn season, an immense assembly. 
I had great liberty, especially in pressing sinners not to resist 
the Holy Ghost. Dr. Findlay was with me in the pulpit. . . ." 

Here, as elsewhere, and perhaps even more than often 
elsewhere, he was, in the most emphatic sense, instant 
in season and out of season, never deeming any place or 
time unsuitable in which a word might be spoken for his 
Master, and an effort made to win the life of souls. The 
highways and hedges, the river steamboat, the roadside 
inn, the mart of business, the purlieus and haunts of vice 
and crime, were to him, equally with the crowded church 
or upper chamber, the fit arena in which to fulfil his 
divine ambassadorship, and "compel men to come in" 
to the house of God. The following incident is strikingly 
illustrative of this, as well as of the pervasive influence 
of the movement in the Perth community at this time, 
and the unlikely quarters into which it found its way: 

144 LIFE O F REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1839-40. 

"January i6th, 1840. In the evening I met a great many 
young men in the vestry, and found among them a great 
number of interesting cases. At eight o clock I visited the 
prayer-meeting of females in Miss Ramsay s, which was very 
full and interesting. Coming out I saw behind a public- 
house some men and women sporting themselves, and went 
up and said, You are making work for the day of judgment. 
They all ran in except one young man, a son of the house 
keeper ; he was subdued. I asked him if he would allow me 
to go in and pray. I got into a large room ; many assembled, 
and we had a very solemn meeting. They all promised to come 
out to the meetings at parting." 

The sequel appears in a brief entry about a fortnight 

"January 30^, 1840. When I went home Mr. Milne told 
me he had heard that Mr. L., the public-house keeper, in whose 
house I was so remarkably led in God s providence to hold 
a meeting, had given intimation to his landlord that he was 
going to give up his shop at the next term, and to leave the 
spirit-trade. . . . Praise to the Lord ! 

The power indeed that attended his words, and the 
effects which often in the most unexpected quarters fol 
lowed them, was at this time most remarkable. " I never 
thought," exclaimed a strong, careless man, who had 
heard him, "to have been so much affected; it is surely 
something altogether unearthly that has come to the 
town." Another "had come with a companion to our 
meetings one night to mock, and they both did so, and 
went from the church to a public-house. However he 
would not go in, refusing with an awful oath to do so. 
On his death-bed he called for his companion, and asked 
him if he remembered these things. He replied he did. 

JEt. 24-25.] THE FLOWING TIDE. 145 

Well/ he says, I would give a thousand worlds to-night 
that my soul were in the state his is, He died after he 
said these words ! " 

On Sabbath the iQth he was at the communion at 
Dundee, when he had the solemn joy of sitting down at 
the table of the Lord, " along with many dear believers, 
not a few of them his own children in the Lord," but 
immediately afterwards returned to his work in Perth, 
which seemed still steadily to grow in depth and wide 
spread influence : 

"Sabbath, February <)th, 184.0, afternoon. Preached in 
Mr. Turnbull s to a crowded audience, from John iii. 14, 15. 
I felt under the bonds of unbelief during the chief part of 
the discourse, but towards the close was enabled by the Lord 
fairly to break loose and speak with some degree of faith and 
joy in Emmanuel, especially when insisting on the stronger 
grounds for faith in our case than in the case of the Israelites. 
They were called to look to a piece of brass as a saviour, and 
thus their looking was an act simply based on the divine 
word; but we are called by the same divine word to look for 
life not to an object of no intrinsic power or value, but to the 
most glorious Object in the universe, the Son of God purchas 
ing the church on the cross with his own blood, c. I saw 
several persons in tears; I was weeping myself, and found 
this a blessed time. Praise to the Lord! Evening: the 
crowd was so great seeking to get into St. Leonard s Church, 
that it was supposed there were more collected in the street 
an hour before the time than would have several times filled 
the church. The press was so great when the doors were 
opened, that several persons were somewhat injured. I 
preached from Romans x. 4, and felt considerably aided; 
though to myself the season was not quite so sweet as in the 
afternoon. We prayed particularly for the raising up of 
Jewish missionaries, according to the call of the Jewish Com 

146 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1839-40. 

mittee by circular, and prayed that some of those present, if 
it were the Lord s will, might be called to this glorious work. 
"Monday, February io//2, 1840. The day of Queen 
Victoria s marriage. Last night about eleven o clock Agnes 

S , Miss R , and two other females, called to express 

their regret that no advantage had been taken of the cessa 
tion from labour on this day for advancing the glory of Jesus. 
I had amid so many engrossing duties never thought that this 
was the day, and it had escaped Mr. Milne also. We prayed 

together on the subject I met the people of God 

and many inquirers at half-past twelve, and we continued 
together till three. I spoke upon Colossians iii. I met with 
several people during the day ; walked with Mr. Milne dis 
tributing many tracts, and having many interesting conversa 
tions with persons on tKe road. Evening : there was to be a 
grand display of fireworks on the Inch, and we hardly thought 
that the church would be anything like filled. However, it 
was quite full, and after a time not a few were standing. I 
spoke upon the 45th Psalm, commenting on the glory of the 
Bridegroom Emmanuel, and the privileges of the Bride the 
Lamb s wife, and thus enforcing the divine call, Hearken, O 
daughter, and consider, &c. 1 felt much of the Lord s 
presence, and had a full persuasion from the frame of the 
hearers that some, if not many, were in the act of being 
betrothed to Christ for ever in righteousness, and judgment, 
and loving-kindness, &c., Hosea ii. ; and while we were thus 
celebrating in the British dominions the marriage of our 
beloved sovereign, I trust there was joy in the presence of 
the angels of God over sinners espoused to the Lamb. How 
infinitely does the one event transcend the other in import 
ance and glory ! and yet, alas ! this poor world, blinded by 

Satan, extols the one and despises the other Awake, 

O gracious Lord, awake this sleeping world ! Amen. 

"February 2%th, 1840, evening. We had a very large and 
solemn meeting. I concluded the exposition of Hosea xiv., 
and then spoke of the nature of the duties for to-morrow 

JEt. 24-25.] FAST-DAY THOUGHTS. 147 

(appointed among us along with some of the people at Dundee, 
Kilsyth, Dunfermline, and Stanley, as a day of fasting, humi 
liation, and prayer), and also of the reasons for the appoint 
ment of this day. 

March isf, 1840. We had this day a solemn fast, kept 
by many I have no doubt very strictly, as far as the duty of 
abstinence is concerned. We met at two o clock P.M. I 
spoke upon the exercises appropriate to this day : 

" i. Self-examination in order to the discovery of sin of the 
heart and nature as well as of the tongue and life by the law 
and the Spirit of Jehovah. 2. Humbling the soul before God 
under sins discovered. 3. Confession of sin, full and particu 
lar, free and filial. 4. Penitent turning from all sin. 5. Enter 
ing into the covenant of grace by the receiving of Emmanuel 
and the surrender of the soul to him and to God through him. 
6. Special prayer for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon 
this city, and the other places united with us in this fast 
the great end designed in its appointment. There was very 
great solemnity. Evening : we met again in Mr. TurnbulPs 
church, Kinnoul Street, and concluded the subject. I had at 
this time more melting of heart under a sense of the love of 
God than ever I remember to have had. in the pulpit, and I 
think shed more tears than ever before in preaching. The 
people also seemed in an unusually tender and solemn frame. 
Glory to the Lamb ! 

"March loth, morning. Alone, and writing letters, espe 
cially to the young people attending Miss Haldane s Greenside 
School. While writing this letter, and speaking of the inter 
position of Jehovah-Jesus between the wrath of God and 
sinners, I got a view of the glory of this mystery surpassing 
anything I had ever enjoyed before, and the tears fell plenti 
fully from my dry eyes." 

Amid these abounding and exhausting labours in a 
sphere in which so wide and effectual a door had been 
opened to him, he still found time and strength for occa- 

148 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1839-40. 

sional evangelistic excursions amid the villages around, 
the results of which were often deeply interesting. In 
this way he visited at different times during this period 
the parishes of Auchtermuchty, Strathmiglo, Dunfermline, 
Muthil, Stanley, Auchtergaven, Caputh, Kinfauns, &c. One 
or two notices of these more desultory, but not less fruitful 
labours may be given, as examples of what, for several 
years to come, constituted a large and important part of 
his work. Thus, of date February i8th, 1840, he writes : 

" Tuesday, February i%th, 1840, forenoon. In closet, wrote 
several letters, drove out to Stanley in gig, gave tracts to all 
by the way ; well received. Afternoon, with Mr. Mather the 
minister, and chiefly in closet; a humbling season. Evening: 
immense crowd in the spacious church ; a thousand people 
work in the mills subject, Luke xxiv. 47 ; more aided than 
ever on the same subject. A very solemn season; many met 
me deeply affected as I retired. Walked home to Perth 
seven miles, arriving at half-past twelve, accompanied by 
nearly twenty from Perth; men, women, and children seemed 
all very solemn and heavenly in their demeanour; prayed 
before we parted. 

"February 2$tk, 1840. I drove out to Balbiggie to preach 
in the Secession Church. The man who drove me seems very 
like a Christian, and told me that of late, especially since our 
meetings began, there had been an astonishing change on 
the face of the country round in point of morality and anxiety 
about religion ; on the way out all the people came to their 
doors with a great appearance of anxiety, and I gave away 
many tracts. The hour of meeting was six; the people were 
many of them assembled at two o clock, and at half-past four, 
when I went, the church was full. I preached on Psalm ex. 3, 
and had considerable assistance, feeling much joy in my own 
soul, &c. 

"March iqth. (Returning from Auchtergaven.) We made 

yt. 24-25.] "THE SCATTERED VILLAGES. 149 

up on the way to the Stanley people, a great crowd, and I 
knelt down with them at the roadside under the bright moon 
and prayed. Their love and deep solemnity put me much in 
mind of the first Christians. After singing and pronounc 
ing the blessing, we parted in affecting silence ! 

"Sabbath, March 224 1840. I rose this morning strong 
in body, but with much conscious deadness of soul, and 
awfully assaulted, as I often am, by doubts regarding every 
truth of God in his Word. I preached in the church from 
Matthew xi. 28, and had little enlargement in the exposition 
of the text, feeling still an inward struggle with infidelity. 
However, after I had closed the Bible, and was concluding 
with a few words of exhortation, the Lord gave me the victory 
over unbelief, and I had such an impressive realization of the 
state of the unconvetf , that I was enabled to speak very 
closely to their consciences, and beseech them with all my 
heart to awake from the sleep of death and flee to Jesus for 
refuge. I saw the tears starting from the eyes of some men 
advanced in years, and felt that the Lord was indeed present. 
The meeting lasted three hours and a half. After dinner, 
Mr. Maclagan, 1 who was very kind, pressed me to come 
again, saying that a number of his people had been benefited 
by our meetings in Perth." 

The period of his continuous ministry in Perth was now 
drawing to a close. He had received repeated and urgent 
invitations to visit Aberdeen, the scene of his second home, 
and of his college days, which he was unable any longer to 
resist, and he felt at the same time that he had already 
remained in Perth long enough to fulfil the functions of a 
distinctively evangelistic ministry. What further work 

1 The Rev. James Maclagan, minister of Kinfauns, afterwards 
Professor of Divinity in the Free Church College, Aberdeen a man 
of great learning, elevated piety, and spiritual depth and fulness 
of thought. 

150 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1839-40. 

remained to be done in order to turn to the best account 
the powerful impulse that had been given, was more of a 
pastoral than of a missionary kind, and that work he felt was 
abundantly safe in the hands of Mr. Milne, Mr. Gray, and 
the other brethren with whom it had been his privilege 
and delight to labour throughout the whole course of 
those eventful days. The sacred spring-tide, however, 
flowed on with unabated force to the last, and he closes, 
immediately before leaving Perth, the first year of his 
ministry as a preacher of the gospel, and the twenty-fifth 
year of his earthly life, in a sort of solemn " triumph in 
Christ," who still continued in so remarkable a manner 
to make manifest through him the savour of his saving 
knowledge and grace. 

"I drove home, praying all the way, and after an hour 
alone I went to the church (St. Leonard s) at six with clear 
direction to Deuteronomy xxxii. 35 as my subject. The 
church was as usual a solid mass of living beings. I availed 
myself of many hints in Edwards sermon, proceeding in the 
following order: I took the whole verse as my subject and 
considered, I. What was meant by vengeance, recompense, 
and calamity, the things that are coming on the wicked; 
which, copying Edwards in his application, I opened up in 
three particulars : ist. It is the wrath of Jehovah. 2d. The 
fierceness of his wrath. 3d. The fierceness of Jehovah s 
wrath for eternity. II. In the second place, I put the ques 
tion, What is it that defers this wrath till the due time, the 
day of calamity? in other words, what is it that keeps an un 
converted sinner a moment out of hell? To this it was 
answered, Negatively, ist. It is not divine justice. This 
has already sentenced the sinner to eternal wrath. 2d. It is 
not that God is pleased with the sinner ; on the contrary, he 
is awfully angry with him, and in many cases more angry 

JEt. 24-25.] A SECOND AWAKENING. 151 

than with many that are already in hell. 3d. It is not on 
account of anything that the sinner has done, or is doing, or 
intends to do. 4th. It is not on account of a good bodily 
constitution or great care to preserve life on the part of the 
sinner or other persons on his behalf. 5th. It is not on ac 
count of any promise given by God to the unconverted. But, 
Positively, Sinners are kept out of hell from moment to 
moment only by the long-suffering of God, who endures 
with much long-suffering/ &c. I then came to apply the 
subject to the case of the unconverted, and went on to point 
out that they were suspended by the hand of a long-suffering 
God over the pit of hell, and were yet madly hating and re 
sisting that God, and provoking him to let them go and fall 
into the flames, especially by rejecting Jesus his unspeakable 
gift. These statements appeared to be accompanied with 
an extraordinary measure of the Holy Ghost, and the feeling 
of the hearers became so intense that when one man in the 
gallery passage audibly exclaimed, Lord Jesus, come and 
save me, the great mass of the congregation gave audible ex 
pression to their emotion in a universal wailing. I imme 
diately changed the theme, and began, as at Kilsyth, to repeat 
such invitations as Isaiah liii., pressing Jesus on all as God s 
free gift. After a few minutes the great multitude became 
more composed; but as I went on particularly addressing those 
who continued impenitent spectators, the feeling became 
again as deep and general as before. To me, looking from 
the pulpit, the whole body of the people seemed bathed in 
tears, old as well as young, men equally with women. This 
second display of feeling continued a few minutes and 
gradually ended, a few only here and there throughout the 
church continuing in great and visible distress of soul. When 
the impression became so deep and overpowering, many that 
did not like, or did not understand, such a glorious manifesta 
tion of the divine power, were offended, and one man came 
up the stair of the pulpit and asked me to dismiss the people ! 
After I had prayed and sung with the people a considerable 

152 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1839-40. 

time beyond the usual period, with brief addresses inter 
spersed, I pronounced the blessing, and asked them to dis 
perse, promising to meet with any who might wish further 
prayer and direction in a school-house. Hardly any, how 
ever, would go away, and even after all the lights in the 
church but two had been one by one extinguished, a few 
hundreds still remained in the church, who would not, and 
in some cases could not, retire. Mr. Milne arrived when it was 
nearly ten o clock, and we found it necessary again to sing 
and pray. After we had done so we at last got the people 
away. I went down to Miss Ramsay s school, and there met 
with as many as the house and passage would contain, both 
men and women, though chiefly the latter, all in deep distress 
about their souls, and in most cases in tears. I remained 
for an hour, and then left them all to pray and sing together, 
which they continued to do for some time longer. This 
glorious night seemed to me at the time, and appears from 
all I have since heard, to have been perhaps the most won 
derful that I have ever seen, with the exception perhaps of 
the first Tuesday at Kilsyth. There was this difference 
chiefly between the two occasions, that a great many of those 
affected at this time had been convinced or converted during 
the previous weeks, while at Kilsyth almost all but the estab 
lished children of God were awakened for the first time. 
Glory to the Lamb ! This is the last Sabbath of the first 
year of my ministry as an ambassador of Christ ! To the 
praise and glory of infinite, eternal, free and sovereign mercy 
and grace. Praise the Lord ! . . . 

"March 28//z, 1840. When during this day I tried to be 
grateful to the Lord for all the marvellous work that I have 
seen during the year that was closing, I felt my soul almost 
overwhelmed, and could only think with joy on the subject 
when I remembered that I had an eternity to spend in prais 
ing and blessing God. Praise to the Lamb ! infinite, eternal 
praise; mercy sovereign, infinite, unchangeable, everlasting! 
The Father electing, the Son redeeming, the Spirit renewing. 

Mt. 24-25.] BIRTH-DAY MUSINGS. 153 

" To Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, 

The God whom I adore, 

Be glory, as it was, and is, 

And shall be evermore ! 

"Wednesday, April \st, 1840. This day begins my 26th 
year. I would act for the Lord Jesus henceforth as if I had 
hitherto done absolutely nothing in his service. May He 
enable me. 1 spent the morning alone and in fasting. The 
Lord, I trust, was near, though I cannot say that I spent the 
season in a manner befitting such an occasion. Indeed, I 
can hardly dare to think of God s dealings with me. They 
overwhelm my soul with astonishment. I wait for eternity 
to study and admire and extol them." 

Such were those remarkable days at Perth during the 
spring of 1840, as their history is traced in the simple and 
solemn words of the chief actor himself. It may be 
desirable, however, for a moment to look at those scenes 
as seen by another eye; and this we are enabled to do 
through the following interesting recollections kindly fur 
nished to me by one who herself " owed much in after 
life " to the sacred impressions received at that memor 
able time. Of the after and permanent results of the 
work then done we shall afterwards have occasion to 
speak; what we have now to quote refers rather to the 
immediate aspect of the movement while still in progress, 
as it presented itself to one who lived through it and 
deeply shared its spirit : 

"It was in a hotel in Rome that we first read, in the columns 
of Galignani s Messenger, the name of William Burns. The 
article was a bitter and sneering caricature. Returning to 
Scotland a few weeks later, without having had any oppor 
tunity of being in church in the interval, and with the bewitch 
ing mummeries of the Roman Church, as they surrounded 

154 LIFE OF REV - WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1839-40. 

the person of Gregory XVI w in vivid recollection, we were 
taken to an inquirers meeting, conducted by Mr. Burns in 
Perth; and the thirty years which have since sped away, instead 
of effacing, have only deepened the impression of the scene 
we then witnessed. William Burns was speaking from Reve 
lation xix., of the doom of Antichrist, and the hallelujah which 
shall rise from the redeemed when the smoke of her torment 
shall ascend in their sight. He was warning the unsaved 
that over their destruction also the same assenting Amen, 
hallelujah, must yet arise, if they persisted in rejecting Jesus. 
He was inviting poor sinners to come to Calvary s fountain 
and wash and_ be clean. He was warning such as imagined 
they had washed and were living unholily, thus : You are 
saying, If I sin it will easily be washed out again. Or, if 
not saying it with the lip, you are acting it out fearfully in the 
life. Ah ! the soul that has washed its filthy garments in the 
stream of Calvary is careful how the remedy is used. Many 
believers have so much allowed the stains of conformity to 
the world to disfigure the white robe, that instead of repre 
senting the work of God within, they are scarcely to be dis 
tinguished from the servants of the devil. He was setting 
before believers the coming joys of the marriage-supper of 
the Lamb, and said, This blessedness is not so far off as the 
world seems to think; the meanest saint can tell that it has 
already set in with a sweetness unspeakable. Ushered into 
the breast of many by billows of affliction and temptation, 
beating wildly on the soul with their tempestuous swell, yet 
are the beginnings so glorious and so blessed, that they are 
an earnest of a springing up of a life eternal in the heavens. 
On the joys which shall crown our union with Emmanuel no 
destroyer shall lay the withering blight of his death-cold hand; 
no ruthless separation shall snatch our happiness from us, or 
us from our happiness. After washing for a few days more 
in the free fountain here after a few days more weeping on 
account of sin and sorrow you shall awake suddenly in the 
city of our God, to walk with Emmanuel for ever in the courts 


above. The company, small here, will be innumerable yonder. 
Ten thousand times ten thousand are their voices, and ten 
thousand times ten thousand are the harps they tune; but it 
is as the sounding of one voice. Hallelujah ! tis the key-note 
of an eternal song. Only one name rests upon their lips, it 
is Emmanuel. They know but one song, the song of the 
redeemed. It is sometimes difficult to say here i all his judg 
ments are righteous/ for they are often heavy and severe. 
When you join that company, your narrow and short-sighted 
views will be gone. If I were ever to see the smoke of your 
torment ascending before the throne, I would have to say 
Amen; hallelujah ! and if you, standing on high, were to see 
the smoke of my torment ascending, you too would cry Amen; 
hallelujah ! . . . An hour has nearly elapsed since we began 
to speak with you; it is just taking wing; a few seconds and it 
will have fled to bear its tale to the judgment-seat. Shall it 
announce the submission of a sinner, the return of a prodigal, 
the adoption of a son into the family above? The deepest 
solemnity pervaded the assembly, as the simple searching 
truth was calmly presented. Individuals were conversed with 
in St. Leonard s Church for an hour or two afterwards; and 
many a burden was there laid upon the Lamb of God that 
taketh away the sin of the world. These inquiry-meetings 
were held three times a week, and in the evening the church 
was open for the crowds that thronged it from town and 
country. An hour before the time of service every seat was 
filled. The multitude generally remained in silence, and 
many heads were bowed in prayer. The stairs leading to 
the pulpit were also filled, and it was with difficulty the 
preacher could be conducted thither. The Rev. John Milne, 
the recently settled pastor of the congregation, usually shared 
the pulpit with the speaker. We recall especially one evening 
when a chair was handed up for James Hamilton, then of 
Abernyte, to sit at their side. It seems now as if one chariot 
had sufficed to carry home the three, William Burns, John 
Milne, and James Hamilton. That night was one of power. 

156 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1839-40. 

Tough boughs require sharp pruning, said the preacher, 
when some one would have tried to blunt the knife, by advis 
ing him to the use of more measured and tempered language. 
*A sleeping minister and a sleeping congregation, what will 
they do in the day of judgment? He was privileged to break 
this sleep in congregations, in kirk-sessions, and in manses. 
The first part of his discourse always embodied a mass of 
telling doctrine, holding up the divine law right in face of the 
sinner s conscience. The appeals in the latter part were 
irresistibly winning, brimming over with the freely offered 
love of Jesus. The Spirit was glorified. He arrested many 
before the preacher had time to enter his subject; in some 
cases the arrow sped from the first psalm that was given out, 
and many were awakened during the opening prayer. It is 
not easy to describe his prayers. Adoration of Jehovah s 
uncreated glory, as it falls on the darkness and corruption 
of man s heart, and reveals the abyss of a yawning hell, filled 
the first part. He brought himself and the saved part of his 
audience down into the sides of the pit whence they were 
hewn, in a way that made the greatest outcast in the church 
feel that he or she was sympathized with and carried abreast; 
and then his soul would as it were be seen to pass anew 
through the cleansing flood, up into the very presence- 
chamber of the King of kings, and there looked up into the 
Father s face with unutterable love. His theology was un 
biased, and swung like a pendulum across the truth of God, 
avoiding all limited, classified, partial, and one-sided expres 
sions of it. His training of young converts was thus invalu 
able to them. * No cross, no crown, was the term of enlist 
ment. Suffering is the law of the kingdom. 5 The greater 
your sacrifices for Christ, the more of his joy will fill your 
heart. Forsake the glass, the dance, and the song, if you 
would drink of the rivers of his pleasures, if you would leap 
for joy on the shores of Emmanuel s land, if you would take 
up the unending hallelujah. 

"He warned the young that if they would live near the 


Lord, they must be content to be singular even among be 
lievers, and to travel sometimes almost alone. I am often 
reminded of this/ he said, when setting out by the early 
stage-coach. The morning is sharp, companions few, and 
from the top of the coach you see whole streets shuttered in 
as in the night. But just here and there, one, earlier up than 
others, has begun her morning work, with no one apparently 
to notice or thank her. She will find out the good of it 
before nightfall. So with you. Forget the crowd, walk 
with God alone. 

"It was a high standard he himself set before them. The 
longing of my heart would be to go once all round the world 
before I die, and preach one gospel invitation in the ear of 
every creature. He had a tender regard for those who were 
kept long in darkness : saying, that those to whom the Lord 
had revealed much of their own sin and misery in the place 
of dragons, were often led into high places in the school of 

"All the roads from the town were nightly trod by groups 
of country hearers. Some were returning home to sing for 
the first time the new song. Others with heavy pace carried 
an arrow rankling in the heart. Others bore the good news 
of companions in town turning to God, the public-house signs 
taken down, the police comparatively idle, and families and 
workshops sharing the wide-spread blessing." 

In the words, in fine, of Mr. Milne, used a year and a 
half afterwards, on a retrospect of these remarkable scenes : 
"God s people quickened; backsliders restored; the doubt 
ing and uncertain brought to decision and assurance; 
hidden ones who for years had walked solitarily brought 
to light, and united to a family of brothers and sisters; a 
large number of the worldly, thoughtless, ignorant, self- 
righteous turned to the Lord; a peculiar people growing 
up, who are separate from the world, know and love one 

158 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1839-40. 

another; watch over, exhort, and aid one another, and 
seem to grow in humility and zeal;" 1 such is the sum 
mary history of the work done and the fruits of blessing 
gathered in at Perth during this signal "time of power." 

After a few more days spent in fulfilling some country 
engagements, he started for Aberdeen on the yth, amid a 
crowd of loving friends who had assembled to bid him 
farewell; but rejoicing still more to see, as he passed 
through Bridgend, " that William G s sign as a spirit- 
seller was taken down !" 

1 Evidence supplied to the Synod of Merse and Teviotdale, in 
answer to queries proposed by them, October 25, 1841. See Life of 
Rev. John Milne, p. 55. 




THE ample details which have been given in the 
three last chapters from Mr. Bums own journals, 
of the nature of his labours, and the scenes amongst which 
he mingled, at Kilsyth, Dundee, and Perth, will render it 
unnecessary to give such extended extracts with reference 
to his evangelistic work at Aberdeen. The spirit in which 
he laboured, and the results which followed, were here in 
all essential respects identical with what we have just 
described elsewhere, and might be said to be simply the 
continuation of what was there begun. The same unrest 
ing activity, intense earnestness, and vivid realization of 
the unseen world on the part of the preacher the same 
mighty and gradually swelling tide of interest, inquiry, 
irrepressible emotion, on the part of the throngs that 
waited on his ministry and hung upon his lips were here 
as there the salient features of a movement which was the 
subject of solemn joy to one part of the community, and 
of wonder, consternation, scorn, or anxious misgiving to 
the other. Sermons to densely crowded audiences in 
three several churches on each Lord s-day; prayer-meetings 
in the morning and afternoon, and a public address in the 


evening of each week-day, with generally an additional 
hour of counsel, instruction, and prayer, for those whose 
intense anxiety still detained them after the long service 
was over, with words by the wayside and conferences with 
inquirers and young disciples at all other available hours, 
constituted the daily history of his work, so far as it can 
be written by man, for weeks together. An occasional 
sermon, too, in the open air in Castle Street, or at the 
foot of the Barrack Hill startled and scandalized a 
Christian community, which has since seen the same self- 
denying service done, with no other feeling than that 
of admiration, by so many others. Even his brethren 
in the ministry, who in all other respects approved and 
furthered his work, with one single exception deprecated 
a course which all the existing conventions condemned, 
but which, by its remarkable results, in sounding the 
depths of a class of society which no other agency had 
reached, more than justified itself: 

"In the evening," says he, "I (April 26) preached in Castle 
Street to an immense audience, chiefly men, on the willingness 
of Jesus to save the chief of sinners, from the thief on the 
cross. I felt more of the divine presence than on any 
former occasion in Aberdeen, and laboured to pull sinners 
out of the fire. The impression was very deep ; many weep 
ing, some screaming, and one or two quite overpowered. At 
eight o clock we adjourned to the North Church, where Mr. 
Wilson from Belfast was preaching, and when he had con 
cluded we remained with a crowded audience for another 
hour in exhortation, prayer, and praise. After this we dis 
missed the people ; but a great many were so deeply moved 
that we could not get away, and accordingly I returned with 
Mr. Murray, who addressed along with me about four 

^Et. 25.] STREET PREACHING. l6l 

hundred, from the precentor s desk. After prayer and sing 
ing, we dismissed about ten o clock. Getting with difficulty 
out of the crowd, I went down to Albion Street, and addressed 
in a school-room about seventy of the poorest and vilest of 
the people in that degraded district. They were very solemn 
and interested to all appearance. We separated about eleven. 
Though this was a day of uncommon toil, yet, praise to the 
Lord ! I was not worn out, but felt strong as ever on my way 
home ..... I may here record that none of the minis 
ters were in favour of the street-preaching but Mr. Parker. 
He and his session all went to Castle Street ; though I felt 
that I did not need human countenance, having so clear a 
conviction of the duty, and being so conscious of the divine 
support in this effort to advance the glory of Jesus." 

Other tokens besides the immediate sense of the "divine 
support," and the access opened to him to " the poorest 
and vilest of the people," soon appeared to confirm his 
conviction that he was in this matter in the right line of 
action. "When walking on the links," says he in his 
journal of next day, " in the afternoon I met some poor 
lads, with whom I prayed among the sand-banks. They 
were very serious for the time, and one of them said he 
had been in Albion Street school the night before. He 
said that many were praying for the first time, and he 
among the rest, after I went away." We are not surprised, 
accordingly, to find him soon again on the same battle 
ground, renewing the charge from the same point at 
which he had already effected so wide a breach. The 
scruples of his brethren, too, soon gave way, as they 
witnessed and gladly hailed the good results of the bolder 
course from which at first they had shrunk : 

Tuesday ) April iWi. In the evening I preached, to 



an immense audience at the foot of the Barrack Hill, in 
cluding multitudes of the worst people in the town. I was 
hoarse and the situation was very unfavourable, owing to its 
vicinity to the public road ; yet with all these disadvantages 
the audience were most fixed and solemn in their attention, 
and I was encouraged to intimate a similar meeting in the 
same vicinity for Thursday night, though I had previously 
proposed to leave Aberdeen on the afternoon of that day. 
This afternoon I had also at half-past five a meeting in the 
barracks with about thirty of the soldiers. They seemed 
much impressed, and some of them shed tears when I came 
away. . . . 

" Wednesday, April 2tyth. I preached in the evening in 
Holborn Church ; an immense audience, the result of the out 
door preaching, as Mr/ Mitchell granted with good-will, his 
mind seeming to be a good deal changed on this point. Mr. 
M., Mr. Parker, and Dr. Dewar all took part in the services. 

" Thursday ; April y>th. I was again at the barracks 
in the afternoon ; appearances just such as on the former 
day. I preached thereafter at the foot of the Barrack Hill 
to an immense audience. I had been thinking on the subject 
of conversion, but I was led in the time of the opening prayer 
to think of Matthew xi. 28, and I preached on it with perhaps 
more of the divine assistance than I had done at any time 
before. Towards the end especially, many were screaming 
and in tears. ... I felt as if I could pull men out of the 
fire; indeed, I never had more of this feeling than this 
evening, and on Sabbath evening in Castle Street. In order 
to escape the crowd I slipped into the barracks, and after 
walking up and down in concealment a little, I went up to 
some of the men and spoke to them of Jesus and salvation. 
I got a good many of them to come and have a last prayer- 
meeting before our parting, which we had accordingly. 
When going up to the room I met dear J. C. 1 standing with 

x An interesting convert mentioned in the journal before several 



streaming eyes alone. He had run up Union Street, thinking 
to overtake me, but not seeing me, and being obliged to be 
in by nine o clock, he returned disconsolate, thinking that he 
might never see me again, the regiment being to leave Aber 
deen for Paisley on Tuesday first. Our meeting was sweet 
indeed, and our parting affecting, but full of the hope of 
meeting in the presence of the Lamb. Glory to his matchless 

Of the after-history of individual souls amongst those 
neglected multitudes in Albion Street and Barrack Hill, 
to whom the gates of the eternal kingdom were thus 
opened for once at least, so widely, but few and broken 
fragments can be gathered from the records of earth. 
The names of some of them occur in connection with the 
labours of a committee of inquiry soon after appointed 
by the presbytery of the bounds, and the cases of others 
are doubtless well known to individual ministers of the 
city, under whose ministry the seeds of life then sown 
were cherished and ripened to holy fruitfulness. With 
his friends amongst the soldiers, however, he was destined 
to meet again in other and deeply interesting circum 
stances, when, five years afterwards, they rallied round 
him, and acted as his gallant body-guard amid the rude 
assaults of the ruffianly mob at Montreal. 

Throughout these manifold and arduous labours Mr. 
Burns had enjoyed, as ever afterwards in Aberdeen, the 
valuable countenance and co-operation of several of the 
ministers of the city, and particularly of Dr. Murray of the 
North Parish, Mr. Parker of Bonaccord Church, and Mr. 
Mitchell of Holborn, in one or other of whose churches 
most of his meetings both on Sabbaths and on week-days 


were held. The two former have since died leaving 
behind them the rich savour of a revered and blessed 
memory. Mr. Parker was a man of deep, thoughtful, and 
even severe piety, with peculiarly profound and solemn 
views of the holy law and sovereign grace of God who 
had been recently translated to his present charge from 
a chapel in Dundee, where he had laboured for several 
years with remarkable acceptance and success. Dr. Mur 
ray was a ripe scholar, a sound divine, a brave and godly 
man, and especially during his earlier ministry, in Trinity 
Chapel, a stirring and successful preacher. He lived to 
a good old age, and. passed away amid the universal 
respect of a community that had for long years honoured 
him as one of its most worthy and true-hearted citizens. 
Both loved and befriended the young evangelist with that 
peculiar and beautiful affection which one sometimes sees 
in those of more advanced years towards the young. 

On Tuesday, May i, he left Aberdeen for a season, in 
order to fulfil some other pressing engagements thus 
briefly summing up the result of his labours there during 
the past month : 

"I am now come to the end of my sojourn in Aberdeen, 
and must notice a few general features in what met my eye 
and ear. We had meetings every morning to the end, in 
Bonaccord Church, which were very sweet and solemn, and 
increased in size towards the end. I also continued to meet 
almost every afternoon, from one to three, with anxious 
inquirers. Many that came to these meetings, as well as 
many that called at the house, seemed in a most promising 
state, and altogether, upon a review of all I saw of this kind 
in Aberdeen, there seemed to be very hopeful symptoms of 


an extensive awakening. And now, Lord Jesus, grant me 
and all thy people there, the Holy Ghost as a Spirit of praise 
for all the tokens of thy glorious and gracious presence there ; 
and may those who were impressed by thy power not be left 
to fall back into their former security beneath the abiding 
wrath of God, but be brought to wash in thy blood, and put 
on the glorious wedding-garment of thy righteousness, and 
adorn the doctrine of God their Saviour by a life and con 
versation becoming the gospel ; and to thee be all the glory ! 

His retirement from Aberdeen, however, was only 
temporary. Neither in his own judgment nor in that 
of the brethren who had laboured with him, had he yet 
made full proof of his ministry there; and accordingly, 
after an absence of five months, we find him again in the 
field, prosecuting with equal devotedness and zeal, and 
with even still more remarkable results, the work which 
he had before begun. For two months together, on week 
days and Sabbath-days, the attendance at the meetings 
continued unabated, and the number of inquirers in 
creased. I find on one of the last pages of his Aberdeen 
diary specific mention of the 2ooth case of spiritual 
anxiety with which he had had to deal since the com 
mencement of his visit; and those who sought him out 
on this errand, and with whom he was able to converse, 
were of course only a fraction of those who were more 
or less affected by the general and wide-spread impres 
sion. So great at one time was the number of the an 
xious, that appointments made for their special behoof 
would be responded to by such crowds, that individual 
instruction became impossible, and the inquirers meeting 


grew into a congregation. Meanwhile the intensity of 
feeling manifested by those who were the more especial 
subjects of the movement was often very great, and 
found vent to itself in the case of those who were of 
a more impressible nature, and were least habituated to 
self-control, now in silent weeping, and now in loud sobs 
and cries. There was undoubtedly at this time a good 
deal of what is called religious excitement. The solemn 
impressions of eternal things renewed night after night, in 
crowded congregations composed in large measure of 
the same individuals, and under the spell of a voice that 
seemed as if the very echo of eternity, gradually grew to 
an intensity which became at last altogether uncontrollable; 
and as this aspect of the movement attracted a good deal 
of public notoriety at the time, and formed the subject of 
a special inquiry on the part of the presbytery of the 
bounds, it may be right to give one or two extracts illus 
trative of its nature : 

"October 22^. In the evening I preached in Trinity 
Church at seven to a full church, from the Pharisee and the 
publican. The impression was solemn. At an after-meeting 
a great many remained, and the impression became deeper, 
many being in tears. We parted at ten, but as we were 
leaving the session-house many crowded round us, and one 
mill-girl cried aloud, so that I had to return to the session- 
house with the concourse. The place was filled in a few 
moments, and almost all fell on their knees and began to 
pray to the Lord. I continued to pray and sing and speak 
with these until after twelve o clock, having frequently offered 
to let them go, but finding that they would not move, and 
feeling in my own soul that the Lord was indeed in the 
midst of us. This was the most glorious season, I think, 

JEt. 25.] "A GREAT MOURNING." 167 

that I have yet seen in Aberdeen. Many poor sinners lay 
weeping all the night on their knees in prayer, and some of 
the Lord s people present seemed to be filled with joy. 

"October 23^. In the evening I met from three to 
four hundred in the Albion Street school, chiefly mill-girls, 
and spoke chiefly from the beginning of Luke xv. I was 
enabled to speak very awfully of the lost state of sinners, and 
the enormity of many sins abounding among us at one 
particular time ; and the impression was so great that almost 
all were in tears, and many cried aloud. This impression 
seemed so deep and genuine, that it continued the whole 
evening afterwards, and though I dismissed them three or 
four times, hardly any would go away, the greater part crying 
aloud at the mention of dispersing. Accordingly we re 
mained until after eleven, and even then the greater part 
remained behind me, and the beadle could not get some of 
them away for a long time after this. It was indeed to all 
appearance a night of the Lord s power, and I trust a night 
of salvation to some. 

"October 28//z, evening. I met with anxious inquirers in 
the North Church session-house, but so many came (they 
could not be fewer than two hundred and fifty) that we had 
to go to the church ; of these two-thirds were mill-girls. 
After speaking to them all together until half-past nine, I 
kept the mill-girls behind and took down about half of their 
names. Some of them seemed in the deep waters, and a 
great many were weeping silently. A few only seemed un 
moved. I found that there were individuals among them 
from all the mills in town, as far as I am aware. Surely the 
Lord is dealing with some of these souls. I would not doubt 
it, though my past experience of the deceitfulness of almost all 
appearances makes me hesitate in regard to individual cases. 
At the Saturday evening meeting a good man who works in 
Hadden s mill told me that he had seen that day what he 
never saw before, a number of the workers bringing their 
Bibles with them to their work ! Sweet token ! 


"November igth.Ak eight, Albion Street school; full 
attendance, though I did not intimate at the mills. What 
a sweet contrast the meeting presented at the time I came in 
to the appearance of these dear young people when we first 
met in this place! Glory to the Lord! The subject, Be 
hold what manner of love/ &c. I desired to speak in an 
awakening way, which is my natural bent, but could not ; and 
was enabled in some degree to speak for the comfort, ex 
amination, and instruction of those who are under concern. 
Many wept tenderly during the whole meeting. There was 
great solemnity and earnestness in prayer, and when we dis 
missed at a quarter past ten many were almost unable to 
go away. Indeed, a great number went into the lower school 
room, in the dark, and remained there for a considerable 
time in prayer, Miss C., the excellent teacher of the infant 
school, being with them. I was told to-day by Mrs. M. that 
a person had said to her, though he was not particularly 
favourable, I am persuaded there is much good doing. It 
is said that now on a Saturday night there is not one for ten 
that there used to be of these young women walking in the 
streets ! Praise ! 

"November 22<^, evening. I preached for Mr. Foote in 
the East Church at six o clock: a collection for his infant 
school. The sermon was therefore advertised. The church 
was choked as soon as opened. There could not be fewer 
than two thousand five hundred, a great number of whom 
were men. ... I preached from Romans ii. 4, 5. At eight 
o clock, I had to divide the subject in order to allow those 
to retire who needed. As many nearly came in as went out, 
and we continued till nine. I saw no men go away. There 
was a fixed and solemn attention to plain and momentous 
truths throughout, and some girls cried out. Praise to the 
Lord! . . . When I came out I heard a young man in 
the street, with a curse, saying, There is the rascal himself. 
I went and spoke kindly to him, saying he did me no ill, but 
himself a great deal. He went along with me and spoke a 


little more seriously, saying, Perhaps I ll turn to God too. 
Turn him and he shall be turned. Praise ! 

"November 23^, evening. At eight we met in the church 
Bonaccord with anxious inquirers, but in consequence of the 
movement so publicly seen on Saturday night, there were so 
many came as nearly to crowd the church, and among these 
many gentlemen drawn by curiosity. I read the I2th of 
Zechariah beginning with verse 9, and spoke upon it at first 
more textually, and afterwards with greater variety and lati 
tude, and I obtained so great liberty that I spoke in a manner 
I have hardly ever done before. We remained speaking and 
praying until half-past eleven P.M., and hardly one even of 
the scoffers went away; many, even gentlemen, remained 
rivetted to the spot, evidently having a witness in their con 
sciences to the truth. There were some avowed infidels 
present ! Glory to the Lord ! There would have been a great 
outcry among the young people, had I not at the beginning, 
and frequently as I went on, debarred them from crying out 
that others might hear and be benefited. Many sighed and 
wept aloud. 

"Wednesday, November 2.$th. Heard that the Dudhope 
Church is open to me at Dundee. At the prayer-meeting 
spoke on the last chapter of ist Thessalonians. Tender 
weeping among many, nay almost all, when I intimated my 
proposed departure. We fixed Friday for a day of fasting. 
Oh! may it be indeed so. Many shook hands with me, 
young and old, rich ( not many ) and poor, when I came out 
with tender weeping. Praise ! Praise ! Oh ! may the week 
that remains to me here be pentecostal! Come Jesus! 

It cannot certainly be matter of surprise that manifesta 
tions like these, occurring in the midst of a great Christian 
community, should have attracted a large measure of 
public attention, and should have been thought deserving 
of serious consideration and inquiry on the part of those 


intrusted with authority in the church. They were sure 
to be variously, and by many severely, judged. Not only 
were those to whom every expression and sign of religious 
earnestness were but as the raving of fools sure to turn 
away from such scenes with contemptuous scorn, but even 
some, to whom the struggles of the interior life were a great 
and blessed reality, might question whether a spiritual 
movement, attended by such a tumult of emotion, were 
likely to prove in the highest degree solid or lasting. It was 
not that the spiritual concern of those whose souls were 
most powerfully stirred by the melting and thrilling words 
of the preacher was in itself too solemn or too deep. No 
amount of solicitude in regard to interests so stupendous 
as the favour and love of God, and the eternal life of the 
soul in him, could be regarded as either unreasonable 
or extreme. Of such solicitude, whether called by the 
name of excitement, or enthusiasm, or the awakening of 
the spiritual life, well might it be said with President 
Edwards: If such things are enthusiasm or the fruits 
of a distempered brain, let my brain be evermore pos 
sessed of that happy distemper ! If this be distraction, I 
pray God that the world of mankind may be seized with 
this benign, meek, beneficent, beatifical, glorious distrac 
tion." But the question still remained, whether a course 
of such continuous and exhausting excitement of the feel 
ings were not fitted rather to hinder than to help spiritual 
inquiry in the highest sense by preventing quiet thought- 
fulness, and possibly issuing in a reaction of deeper care 
lessness and apathy. Grace, it was urged, while in itself 
supernatural and divine, yet works ever according to the 


essential laws of our moral and physical constitution; and 
whatever in any degree runs counter to those laws must 
tend in that degree to hinder or to mar that work. Of 
those laws the healthy equipoise of the different elements 
of our nature the reason, the conscience, the feelings 
is one of the most fundamental, and therefore any undue 
or exclusive predominance of one of these to the suppres 
sion or abeyance of the others must tell with more or less 
of injurious influence upon all. It was alleged too that 
the excitement then prevalent was in many cases an 
excitement of fear rather than of love or moral feeling, 
and for that reason also the more liable to prove evan 
escent, or to issue in morbid and unsatisfactory results. 
It was not enough to say in answer to these considerations 
that the work was, as most Christian men fully believed, 
in its essential nature and substance a work of the Spirit 
of God ; for a divine work was all the more sure to be 
more or less marred by the erring touch of man; and 
that work, it was maintained, would have been helped 
not hindered, and the spiritual birth or holy progress of 
souls furthered, had the public meetings and protracted 
and exciting services been fewer, and the hours of still 
and meditative retirement more. 

There was some truth, doubtless, in these considerations; 
but probably not so much as those who urged them were 
disposed to think. It was not enough considered that 
such a season of general awakening to the sight and sense 
of eternal things was in its nature exceptional and tem 
porary, and that the intense excitement with which it was 
at first attended was sure, in the course of nature, soon 


to die down into a more quiet and tranquil condition of 
things. Whatever effects of a permanent kind might 
result from the earthquake shock, in startling souls from 
the sleep of death, its immediate tremor and concussion 
would soon pass away. Neither in the public mind gene 
rally, nor in the history of individual souls, would the 
tumult of emotion last long enough to produce, at least 
to the full extent, that revulsion or paralyzing exhaustion 
of feeling that was apprehended. Many of those who 
were most deeply moved by the prevailing influence very 
soon passed the crisis of their anxiety, and through that 
sore agony and travail of soul entered into a state of calm 
peace and rest in God, which was the very opposite of all 
tumultuous excitement. The same power that was mighty 
to wound was mighty also to heal, so that "the bones 
which" that divine unseen hand "had broken" were speedily 
made to "rejoice." There was the gentle and reviving 
south wind, as well as the biting north the time of the 
singing of birds, as well as the winter and the rain. Thus 
those whose desires after God, the living God, were deep 
and real, did not long fail of the object of their quest, and 
with it of that holy calm which can alone effectually still 
the tumults of the heart; while in the case of those whose 
natural sensibilities alone were stirred, there was enough 
in the cares of the world and the pressing exigences of 
daily life soon to blunt the edge of excited feeling, and 
preclude the danger of a too intense or long-continued 
anxiety. Those in short who had then been roused to 
momentary seriousness, would either inevitably soon sink 
into slumber again, or have their eyes opened to the sight 


of Him, the beholding of whom alone can permanently 
keep the soul awake, and in whom there is not only life 
everlasting but peace unspeakable. 

It should be remembered, also, that those to whose 
benefit Mr. Burns labours were at this time for the most 
part directed, belonged to that class whom it is most diffi 
cult to arouse to any thought or care about eternal things at 
all, and who when they are so roused, are then only led 
to think when they have been first made to feel. Those 
rude and untaught hearts in Albion Street and Barrack 
Hill, or amidst the crowds of factory workers, who were 
brought to weep and wail aloud at the thought of God 
and eternity, might never get beyond those mere sobs and 
tears might catch only a momentary glimpse of a higher 
world, and then pass again into darkness ; and yet surely 
the very state of mind which made them capable of such 
tears had already raised them far above their former state 
of stolid indifference and moral debasement, and brought 
them at least several steps nearer the kingdom of God 
than they were before. There are those let us never 
forget it whose deeper nature must be reached, primarily 
and chiefly, not through the head, but through the heart. 

It was a time doubtless of high but in the main of sacred 
and salutary excitement. Occasionally no doubt the tide 
of feeling was too unrestrained more continuous and less 
subjected to regulative control, than with a view to solid 
and enduring results would have been desirable. There 
was not indeed too much feeling; but there was perhaps 
too little thought not too much of the whirlwind and 
of the fire, but possibly too little of the still small voice. 


Without any less of the religion of the heart, there might 
have been more of the religion of the informed judgment, 
the educated conscience, and of the disciplined will. It is 
hard in any case, and under any ministry, fully to reconcile 
and combine what may be called the stimulative and the 
educative functions of the gospel message to give full 
scope at once to the powers that stir and to the principles 
that should guide and control the spiritual nature. I do 
not say least of all would the subject of this memoir 
have said that in the present instance this reconciliation 
was perfectly attained. In the great lack, too, of wise 
guides of souls, and in the comparative inexperience in 
such work even of triose who were most fitted for it, it is 
not wonderful if a spiritual movement, at once so exten 
sive and profound, should have got occasionally somewhat 
beyond control; and if some portion of its good results 
should thus have been lost or have passed away into 
impure and morbid forms. Even a Divine work in human 
hands partakes ever and necessarily more or less of the 
imperfection and the error of that which is human. In 
the main, however, and with every reasonable allowance 
for such imperfection and error, we believe this remark 
able movement to have been a real and most blessed 
work of the Spirit of God a true awakening, through His 
heavenly breath, of the spiritual nature, and quickening 
of the springs of highest life in multitudes of human 
souls. If it was an enthusiasm, it was an enthusiasm of 
faith, of love, and of holy endeavour and aspiration. 

Still let it be admitted that the dangers apprehended 
from excessive and too continuous excitement, if often 


exaggerated, are nevertheless real, and that so far as they 
can be avoided, they are, in the interest of the work itself, 
and for the honour of Him whose work it is, to be sedu 
lously and anxiously guarded against. "There being a 
great many errors and sinful irregularities," to use again 
the words of Edwards, "mixed with this work of God, 
arising from our weakness, darkness, and corruption, does 
not indeed hinder it from being very glorious. Our follies 
and sins in some respects manifest the glory of it. The 
glory of divine power and grace is set off with the greater 
lustre by what appears at the same time of the weakness 
of an earthen vessel. It is God s pleasure to manifest 
the weakness and unworthiness of the subject at the same 
time that he displays the excellency of his power and the 
riches of his grace. And I doubt not but some of these 
things which make some of us here on earth to be out of 
humour, and to look on this work with a sour counten 
ance, heighten the songs of the angels when they praise 
God and the Lamb for what they see of the glory of God s 
all-sufficiency, and the efficacy of Christ s redemption. 
And how unreasonable is it that we should be backward 
to acknowledge the glory of what God has done, because 
the devil, and we in hearkening to him, have done a great 
deal of mischief." Still none the less error is error, and 
sin is sin, and both are to be with the utmost watchfulness 
and care guarded against, so that the work which we 
recognize as divine may not only be, but be seen to be, 
"honourable and glorious," and that no needless stumb 
ling-block may be thrown in the way of any true though 
feeble seeker after God. 


Whether, then, and to what extent, any such incidental 
evils had appeared in the present case, was a most fair 
and important subject of inquiry; and a committee was 
accordingly appointed for that purpose by the presbytery 
of Aberdeen, moved thereto chiefly by some very unfair 
and one-sided accounts of some of the meetings which 
had appeared in one of the public prints. The result 
was eminently satisfactory. The proceedings were con 
ducted on the whole as Mr. Burns himself most cordially 
admitted with candour and fairness, and in such a 
manner as fully to elicit the essential elements of the truth. 
To the convener of the committee in particular, the Rev. 
Wm. Pirie, 1 he felt himself under deep obligation for the 
kindness and courtesy with which he conducted his own 
examination, when called personally to appear as a witness. 
A part of his evidence it may be proper here to give, 
both as illustrating his general character and views, and 
the light in which he regarded the special matters then in 
question. We may only further premise, in order to the 
clearer understanding of some of the questions, that the 
newspaper attack referred to consisted partly of a pro 
fessedly verbatim report of the proceedings at one of the 
meetings, 2 and partly of a leading article, commenting 
thereon with great bitterness and severity : 

"Q. Could you state those peculiarities of the Herald s 

1 Now Rev. Dr. Pirie, Professor of Divinity in the University of 

2 The meeting for inquirers held in Bonaccord Church on Novem 
ber 23d, referred to in the extract from journal of that date, see 
above, page 169. 


report which makes it, as you have said in your letter to Mr. 
Mitchell, a caricature of what was spoken by you on the 
occasions referred to? 1 

"A. Among these peculiarities, I may mention the follow 
ing as occurring to me at the moment: ist, The manner in 
which the whole is printed, by the use of hyphens, and the 
parenthetical insertion of remarks by the reporter. The 
reason of my speaking with peculiar slowness on the occa 
sion referred to, was to prevent, if possible, the charge of 
trying to excite the people being brought against me by 
the enemies of the work present. 2d, The omission of sen 
tences throughout which are necessary to exhibit the true 
connection of what was said, and the consequent bringing 
together, and in some cases mixing up, of things which, as 
spoken, stood apart. 3d, The entire omission of what was 
said during the last hour of the address, the insertion of 
which is indispensable to give a just impression of the whole 
service. 4th, The omission of some introductory remarks, in 
which the speaker explained his reasons for addressing those 
who seemed to have come as spectators, rather than those 
anxious inquirers for whom the meeting was intimated a 
circumstance this which led the speaker to leave the text on 
which he was to have spoken, and to enlarge in a remon 
strance with those whom he supposed to have come from 
questionable motives. 

" Q. Assuming it to be as a religious exposition delivered 
from the pulpit, by a licentiate of the Church of Scotland, 
would you hold the report in the Aberdeen Herald (supposing 
it to be correct) as becoming, decent, and in conformity with 

"A. I have no hesitation in saying that the report in the 
Herald, if read under the idea of its being accurate, and 
without a knowledge of the particular circumstances in 

1 We give the questions simply, without distinguishing between 
those put by the convener and those by other members of the Com 



which these meetings took place, would seem open to the 
charge of being incoherent in the connection of its meaning, 
and not well fitted to edify the hearer. Indeed, I have my 
self met with judicious and godly friends who have been led 
to fear that the speaker had been imprudent in the case 
referred to ; while, on the other hand, I have not met with 
any serious person of sound judgment, who was present at 
the meeting and thought that anything unscriptural or un 
becoming in the circumstances had been said or done. Nor 
do I myself, in the recollection of what took place, know of 
anything which ought to be condemned by those who hold 
sound views of Bible truth. 

"Q. You admit that the words, This is the outpouring of 
the Spirit, 1 were used by you; how did you know that at the 

"A. This was my own deliberate conviction at the time, 
and continues to be so. The grounds on which I was con 
vinced of this were, not merely those appearances of deep 
solemnity and a humbling sense of sin which were mani 
fested by many of the people, but also my general knowledge 
of the state of many of them, from private conversation and 
the testimony of others. No one can see the propriety of 
introducing such a statement, unless he had been present and 
had witnessed the circumstances in which it was made. 

"Q. How did those appearances of deep solemnity and 
humbling sense of sin, to which you have referred, manifest 
themselves in the hearers at the time? 

"A. The appearances to which I have alluded are, that 
deep solemnity which one can judge of when present, and all 
the usual outward marks of grief and humiliation. It is no 
doubt difficult to judge of such a matter from visible tokens, 
and specially so in regard to individual cases. But, as I 
have already said, the conviction which I expressed was not 
founded solely on the appearances visible at that time, but 

1 Said to have been used by Mr. Burns at the meeting when he had 
endeavoured in vain to restrain the emotion of the audience. 


also on the grounds stated in answer to the previous ques 
tion ; nor would I think it safe to judge of such a matter by 
almost any appearances, if taken apart from the causes which 
produced them and the effects by which they are followed. 

"Q. When you used the words referred to, This is the out 
pouring of the Spirit/ how was it possible for you, in con 
formity with the explanation given in your last answer, to tell 
what the effects would be? 

"A. I am fully convinced that it is a matter of the utmost 
difficulty to judge, in regard to a particular individual, that 
the concern which that individual feels is the effect of special 
and saving grace; but, at the same time, I have no doubt 
that any one who is acquainted, from Scripture, and espe 
cially by experience, with the saving work of God s Spirit, 
can on good grounds conclude that the Spirit of God is 
working remarkably among a people, even before time has 
fully proved the effects of that work upon the lives of 

" Q. Did you know a great proportion of the parties before 

"A. I was accustomed to meet them almost day by day; 
to converse privately with those who were anxious; and, in 
this way, had an opportunity of obtaining a general know 
ledge of their religious state. I also heard, from various 
quarters, of the state of some of them when at work and when 
at home, and thus could more confidently judge that they 
were really impressed by divine truth. 

"Q. Did you witness any physical manifestations on that 
night ? 

"A. If by physical manifestations be meant the in 
dications of grief alluded to in such texts as in Zechariah 
xii. 10, They shall look on me whom they have pierced, and 
shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and 
shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for 
his first-born if this be meant, I did see such indications of 
feeling, and I would desire to see them on a far larger scale. 


" Q. It is meant, did you hear sobs, crying, screaming, or 
did you see any one faint or fall into convulsions ? 

"A. I certainly did see, and expect to see in such cases, much 
weeping, some audibly praying to God for mercy, and occasion 
ally also individuals crying aloud as if pierced to the heart. 
I don t remember that any one fell down or fell into convul 
sions on the night referred to, although I have occasionally 
seen such cases, both in Aberdeen and in other places, and 
among these, strong men in the prime of life. 

"Q. Do you think persons so excited can by possibility 
further benefit from pulpit ministrations? 

"A. I should think that the most direct means of composing 
persons under such spiritual concern, is the calm and tender 
ministration of the gospel of Christ. Of course, if the bodily 
frame is so much affected as to prevent the intelligent hearing 
of the word, no benefit can be derived from it. When people 
have fallen into a swoon, the latter is the case, and such 
persons had better be removed; but where there is much 
weeping, there may be, at the same time, the best preparation 
for listening to the exhibition of Christ. 

" Q. Am I to understand you, when you said, in a foregoing 
answer, that you did see persons weeping and audibly pray 
ing to God for mercy, and occasionally also individuals cry 
ing aloud, as if pierced to the heart, that you considered 
these as sure evidences that the Spirit of God was savingly 
working upon these persons ? 

"A. I have already stated very fully the grounds of my con 
viction that the Spirit of God was at that time powerfully 
working among the people taken as a whole, but I have a 
firm and growing conviction that there often are, at such 
seasons, individuals who manifest a great degree of feeling, 
and yet afterwards show that they continue in their natural 

" Q- Do Y u not think public meetings protracted until ten, 
or eleven, or twelve o clock at night, likely to give offence, to 
interrupt family worship, interfere with family arrangements, 


cause family disputes, and to be hurtful to the interests of 
religion ? 

"A. I confess I am more and more convinced of the 
great importance, in general, of a sacred regard to the ordi 
nance of God in regard to family and secret worship, and 
of the importance consequently of having public meetings, 
as far as possible, concluded at an early hour; at the same 
time, I have no doubt that there are cases in which it is 
for the glory of God that public worship should be more 
protracted. In places where the people cannot meet earlier 
than eight o clock I have generally found that we could not 
end before ten o clock, and this is the hour at which, gene 
rally, the public meeting has been dismissed, although, in 
a few cases, it has seemed necessary to remain to a later 
hour with those who were anxious about their souls." 

Besides these oral statements, the following written 
replies to some of the questions proposed by the presby 
tery seem to me worthy of permanent record : 

" Q. Have you had many opportunities of seeing persons 
in different places affected at religious meetings in the way 
in which the persons referred to were affected in Bonaccord 

"A. I have had many such opportunities. 

" Q. What have you found to be the result generally, in as 
far as the religious state of those persons was concerned, as 
displayed in their after-conduct? 

"A. I have known cases in which persons so affected, 
even to a great degree, have turned out ill ; though I believe 
they were at the time really affected with a sense of their 
guilt and danger. In the generality of cases, however, I have 
had good reasons to hope that such persons underwent a 
saving change. They were at least greatly changed to the 
eye of man. 

"Q. Have you carefully inquired as to such results? 

"A. I have been careful to inquire as to these results, and 


often feel a burden of concern on my soul about the case of 
such persons, using all the means in my power to ascertain 
and to insure their consistency, and their growth in the 
knowledge of God. 

"Q. Have you found that, when persons have not been 
strongly affected, to all appearance, in religious meetings, 
they had been awakened to any great concern about their 
spiritual state? 

"A. I have found many who have been brought to a deep, 
spiritual, and abiding sense of sin, without manifesting their 
concern to those around any farther than by silent tears or 
deep seriousness of demeanour. Such cases, if really deep, 
are in general, I think, to be marked for stability. 

" Q. What sort of persons have you generally seen much 
affected at such meetings ? Were they those who had been 
utterly careless about religious truth, and very ill acquainted 
with the facts of religion, or those who had been accustomed 
to pay some attention to religious ordinances, and had an 
acquaintance with these facts? 

"A. They have been of both the classes mentioned in the 
question. I do not know that persons of little knowledge are 
harder to bring to a sense of sin than others better informed ; 
the Spirit of God worketh when and where he pleaseth. But 
I think that I have found those persons generally most stable 
after they were awakened, who had full religious knowledge, 
and especially who lived in godly families. Yet I know 
remarkable instances of persons becoming eminent for godli 
ness in the most disadvantageous circumstances, and who 
seemed rather to get good than evil from seeing the wicked 
ness of their relations around them." 

One or two extracts from letters to the convener of 
the Committee will complete the account of the part 
borne by him in this deeply interesting and important 

". . . Allow me, also, here to express the kindness shown 

jEt. 25.] WRITTEN EVIDENCE. 183 

to me, by the Committee and by the Convener, at my appear 
ance before them. The truth will always bear examination. In 
this case I fear nothing, except a superficial or prejudiced con 
sideration of the facts. A close and holy scrutiny will indeed 
expose the emptiness of the work of man; but the work of 
Jehovah, like his inspired Word, the more it is examined will 
appear the more clearly to be worthy of his own infinite per 
fections. . . . 

"I may take, also, this opportunity of explaining more 
clearly than I was able to do in my examination before the 
Committee, my deliberate opinion of the grounds on which 
I would feel warranted to judge of the reality of the Holy 
Spirit s work among a people, or in the case of an individual. 

"The/^// and complete evidence of His work, whether in 
the case of a people or of an individual,"^ to be drawn from 
the manner in which they are affected under the preaching 
of the gospel, taken in connection with the truths by which 
they are so affected, and the effects which are afterwards 
habitually manifested in their temper of soul and outward 
conversation. It is the safe method, as a general rule, to 
judge of any real or supposed work of God among a people 
from these sources taken all together; and in the case of 
individuals, except the instance be very remarkable indeed, 
I would not think it safe to decide that a saving work of the 
Holy Ghost had taken place, until the spiritual, consistent, 
and permanent character of the individual had made it evi 
dent. I am, however, fully convinced that a minister of God, 
if experimentally acquainted with the saving work of God on 
his own soul, and especially if he has had opportunity of 
witnessing the work of the Holy Spirit on a large scale, may 
be warranted, in remarkable cases, to conclude that God s 
Spirit is at work among a people, before time hasyW/y proved 
the work by its permanent effects ; nay, that he may even do 
so from witnessing the power of the truth on the minds of an 
audience at a public meeting, and without particular previous 
knowledge of the state of individuals, and yet not be liable to 


the charge of rash and unwarrantable judgment. I conceive, 
for instance, that the apostles must have been convinced that 
the Holy Ghost was remarkably outpoured on the day of 
Pentecost, when they saw the mighty power of the gospel on 
the souls of thousands. I have no doubt that Mr. Livingstone, 
and other ministers and people of God, were convinced, at 
the Kirk of Shotts, of the same things, without needing to 
wait until the permanent fruits of the work were developed. 
I could myself have no more doubt of this than of any 
Scripture truth, on that memorable day when the work of the 
Lord began in so glorious a manner at Kilsyth. On many 
other occasions, also, I have considered myself warranted in 
coming at the time to the same general conviction ; and have 
never yet found that this general conviction was weakened, 
much less destroyed, by after-experience. In -the meeting 
referred to, in Bonaccord Church, on Monday the 23d 
November, 1840, I could have no doubt, from the nature of 
the truth spoken, the manner in which I felt supported of 
God s Spirit in speaking it, and the evident effect produced 
by it on the minds of many of the audience, and, more or 
less, on the minds of almost all, that the Holy Ghost was 
then exerting his gracious power among us ; at the same time, 
as I stated to the Committee when examined, it is a matter 
of fact that my judgment, expressed in the words which I felt 
called on to use, This is the outpouring of the Spirit, was 
actually founded, not merely on the circumstances I have just 
stated, but also on the knowledge which I had previously 
obtained regarding the state of many persons under deep 
concern about the salvation of their perishing souls." 

The committee of presbytery very properly extended 
their inquiries beyond the sphere of their own immediate 
jurisdiction, to some of the other scenes of Mr. Burns 
labours, where a religious movement essentially similar 
to that at Aberdeen had taken place, and where from 


the lapse of time its real nature and tendency could be 
the better tested. The result was a remarkable concur 
rence of weighty and impressive testimony alike to the 
depth and extent of the influence at work, and of the 
holy and enduring fruit in the hearts and lives of multi 
tudes of its subjects. Some portions of that evidence 
will be given in the Appendix to this volume. It may 
be enough here to present the general result of the pres 
bytery s investigation, as embodied in the deliverance 
adopted by them, on a full consideration of the whole 
facts and bearings of the case : 

"The Presbytery, having taken into their solemn consider 
ation the evidence on revivals of religion received by their 
Committee on that subject, resolved, 

"i. That a revival of religion, consisting in the general 
quickening of believers, and the conversion of multitudes of 
unbelievers, by the Holy Spirit, cannot but be an object of 
most earnest desire to every follower of the Lord ; that the 
genuineness of such a revival is chiefly to be tested by the 
nature and permanence of the effects by which it is followed; 
that it can only be expected to flow from the use of the 
appointed means, accompanied with the abundant outpouring 
of the Spirit of God ; that it should be made a subject of 
fervent and persevering prayer; and that, when such a 
revival takes place, it should not be dreaded or spoken of 
with levity, but should be carefully and seriously marked, and 
acknowledged with devout thanksgiving. 

"2. That the evidence, derived from answers to certain 
queries sent by the Committee to ministers and others in 
different parts of the country, amply bears out the fact that 
an extensive and delightful work of revival has commenced, 
and is in hopeful progress in various districts of Scotland 
the origin of which, instrumentally, is to be traced to a more 
widely diffused spirit of prayer on the part of ministers and 


people, and to the simple, earnest, and affectionate preaching 
of the gospel of the grace of God; that this work in the 
districts referred to, many of which are locally far distant 
from others, has been attended with few of those evils which 
have generally more or less characterized seasons of great 
religious excitement ; and that, on the whole, an amount of 
good has been accomplished, which loudly calls for gratitude 
and praise to Him who turneth the hearts of men as the 
rivers of water. 7 

"3. That in the case of Aberdeen, to which the evidence 
more especially refers, it clearly appears, so far as the test of 
time can be applied to the subject, that a very considerable 
number of persons, chiefly in early life, have been strongly, 
and it is hoped savingly, impressed with the importance of 
eternal things, and. are in the course of further instruction ; 
that many of all ages have been awakened to a more serious 
concern about Christ and salvation than they formerly felt, 
and have been quickened to activity in well-doing ; and that 
the labours of Mr. W. C. Burns, preacher of the gospel, are 
peculiarly discernible in connection with these results. At 
the same time, the Presbytery cannot but regret that such an 
exclusive reference should have been made to two particular 
meetings at which Mr. Burns presided, where the services 
were protracted to a late hour, and where much outward 
excitement prevailed circumstances obviously liable to much 
inconvenience as well as misconception while it appears 
from the evidence that many other meetings were held for 
religious instruction, through the same instrumentality, which 
could be liable to no such misconception, and where much 
good was wrought. And, upon the whole, the Presbytery are 
convinced that, if it had entered more into the nature of the 
inquiry to ascertain simply the extent of the awakening that 
has been effected in this city and neighbourhood, the evidence 
of a favourable kind would have been such as to lead to 
increased thanksgiving. 

"4. That the Presbytery having considered the whole 


evidence that has been laid before them on this unspeakably 
important subject, feel themselves called upon to recommend 
to all ministers, preachers, and elders within their bounds, in 
their respective spheres, to labour more and more diligently 
and prayerfully, in the use of all scriptural means, to promote 
the cause of vital religion, which needs so much to be revived 
among us ; and they would also exhort and entreat all the 
private members of the Church to study to grow in grace, to 
abound in all the fruits of righteousness, and to plead more 
earnestly with the great Head of the Church that he would 
pour out of his Spirit more plentifully upon us, and bless his 
appointed ordinances, that the wilderness may become a 
fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest." 

Before the commencement of the investigation, Mr. 
Burns had already closed his labours at Aberdeen, having 
been called to take the temporary charge of a new church 
at Dundee. He left for that town on the 5th of Decem 
ber, at early dawn; but not too early to find awaiting him 
at the place of departure a number of those who had 
learned to look to him " even as an angel of God," and 
who parted from him with many tears : 

"Saturday, December $th. Though I was very late up 
last night (this morning), and had but a short time for 
sleep, I awoke of my own accord at the proper time quite 
refreshed, and set out at twenty minutes to seven with the 
Dundee mail. A number of my young friends had found 
out the time of my departure, and stood by on the pave 
ment in tears. The mockery of many around made our 
tongues silent: we looked at each other, with Jesus in our 
hearts eye I hope, and wept." 



SHALL never forget," says one to whom Mr. 
J- Burns "was more than any other man," "the first 
time I saw him. It was at Lawers, on Sabbath the i6th 
of August, 1840. The whole country was ringing with the 
wonderful movement in Kilsyth, Perth, and Dundee, with 
which his name was associated. It was rumoured too that 
a short time before a person had died in connection with 
one of his services. A great multitude assembled, not 
only with the ordinary feelings of curiosity, but with 
feelings of wonder and solemnity deepening almost into 
fear. I can remember the misty day, and the eager 
crowds that flocked from all directions across hill and 
lake. The service was of course in the open air, and 
when the preacher appeared many actually felt as if it 
were an angel of God. There was an indescribable awe 
over the assembly. Mr. Burns look, voice, tone; the 
opening psalm, the comment, the prayer, the chapter, 
the text (it was the parable of the Great Supper in 
Luke xiv.), the lines of thought, even the minutest; the 
preacher s incandescent earnestness; the stifled sobs of 
the hearers on this side, the faces lit up with joy on that; 


the death-like silence of the crowd, as they reluctantly 
dispersed in the gold-red evening the whole scene is 
ineffaceably daguerreotyped on my memoty. It was the 
birthplace of many for eternity. Last year (1868), when 
a deputation from the General Assembly visited the 
presbytery of Breadalbane, in connection with the state 
of religion, a venerable minister stated that such of the 
subjects of that gracious work as still survive adorn the 
doctrines of God our Saviour in all things. Most of the 
congregations in the district received the divine shower." 1 
Mr. Burns labours in Breadalbane, or the romantic dis 
trict that lies along the margin of Loch Tay, took place 
between the periods of his first and of his second visit to 
Aberdeen described in the last chapter, and constituted 
altogether one of the most interesting and characteristic 
parts of his whole evangelistic course. Here he was 
peculiarly at home. The solemn forms of the everlasting 
hills and the great shadow of the supernatural which they 
seemed to cast even over the spirit of the people were 
congenial to him. The Sabbath stillness too, and the 
fresh and healthful upland air, contributed to restore 
tone and vigour to a frame on which the fevered atmos 
phere of city life and city work had begun sensibly to 
tell. Never probably at any period of his life was he 
more happy in the best sense than during this interval 
of quiet, thoughtfulness and restful labour kneeling in 
lonely prayer in some forest thicket by the river or 

1 The Shepherd of Israel: or Illustrations of the Inner Life. By 
the Rev. Duncan Macgregor, M. A., Minister of St. Peter s, Dundee. 
Pp. 236-7. 


mountain side, or standing up before those arrested 
crowds that hung upon his words, silent and solemn as 
the mountains around. Never, probably, were the sacred 
impressions produced by his preaching more deep and 
spiritual than here, or the tendency to an unhealthy and 
nervous excitement less. The following graphic words 
from the writer already quoted- were true of him at all 
times, but at this time emphatically so: "Like the Baptist 
he came preaching repentance, and with terrible earnest 
ness warned the thousands that flocked to hear him to 
flee from the coming wrath. Like the Baptist, too, he 
was independent of home ties lived, as it were, in the 
wilderness, making himself grandly solitary for the work 
of Christ ! His very eyes left their light with you after he 
had gone. . . . And yet there was an Isaiah-like 
grandeur about his expositions of the gospel. When his 
lips were touched with the live coal, it was indeed a 
feast of fat things to hear him. And even when he was 
straitened, which he often was, owing to the incessant 
demands upon him, there was always something precious 
which stuck fast in the memory." 

To this interesting period of Mr. B. s labours we pro 
pose to devote the present chapter; but it will be proper 
before entering on it, to glance briefly at the course of 
his movements during the three preceding months. 

For some weeks after he left Aberdeen, those seasons 
of "straitening," of which Mr. Macgregor speaks, had 
been more than usually frequent and painful to him. The 
reaction of feeling and the physical exhaustion naturally 
succeeding a time of high excitement, produced a languor 


alike of mind and body, which even his vigilant self- 
jealousy could not avoid attributing, in part at least, to 
other than spiritual causes. Thus at Dundee, May 3d, 
at the close of a Sabbath s services, he writes, "I was 
tired and had not much of the Lord s comfortable pre 
sence in my work, feeling that I needed rest for the body 
and a season of solemn retirement to meet with the Lord 
in personal communion." And again at Stirling, May 
6th, " I did not come here with an expectation of doing 
much, on two grounds: ist, That my bodily strength 
was much reduced; and 2d, my mind needed recreation 
to restore its elasticity and power." Yet even then, 
sometimes the bow drawn at a venture, albeit by an 
enfeebled hand, would send an arrow of divine con 
viction home to some favoured heart : " I was going 
out," says he, May i3th, " on Monday night among the 
people, and dropping words here and there, I somehow 
looked up the stair when the people were coming down, 
and the eye fixing on a young man, I pointed to him 
and said aloud, Will you come to Christ? On Tuesday 
this young man came to me in great distress, and told 
me that he was a smith belonging to Scone, who was 
living there when I was in Perth, and often attended 
our meetings. He said he often wanted to be awakened, 
and wondered how he was so little moved, when so many 
around him were. He remained in his undecided state 
until these words were so remarkably directed to him. 
They went like a knife to his heart, and seemed to bring 
him to the foot of the cross !" He struggled on in the 
endeavour to fulfil engagements already made, till a 


decided attack of illness compelled him to pause and "rest 
a while" under the hospitable roof of Collessie manse, 
where his kind friends Mr. 1 and Mrs. M Farlane welcomed 
and nursed him with an affectionate tenderness, which he 
never afterwards forgot. In a week or two, however, 
he was at his work again, preaching to large and deeply 
moved audiences in various places in Fifeshire, and meet 
ing with unexpected encouragement and support even from 
some of those ministers who would have been thought 
least likely to favour his line of things. Dr. Barclay of 
Kettle, the oldest minister of the Church of Scotland, 
then in his ninety-first year, who had been always ranked 
amongst the Moderate party, shook him warmly by the 
hand as he came down from the pulpit, saying, " I thank 
you most heartily," and urged him to return. Dr. Ferric 
of Kilconquhar, 2 reputed of similar views, made him free 
alike of his house and of his church, entered with the 
deepest interest into all the solemn scenes which attended 
his preaching, and told him that " while he was with him 
he was to act exactly as if he were the minister of the 
parish." In the neighbouring parish of Anstruther, then 
under the pastoral charge of Dr. Feme s son, he had a 
like freedom of action, and a like open and effectual 
door of access to the consciences and hearts of the 
people, all the ministers of the place cordially uniting 
their congregations to form one deeply solemnized audi 
ence, in the midst of which " some of the most hardened 
sinners of the town were seen turning pale as death and 

1 Now Dr. M Tarlane, of the Free Church, Dalkeith. 

2 Also Professor of Civil History in the University of St. Andrews. 

^Et. 25.] MELVILLE S "WATCH TOWER." 193 

shedding tears" under the preacher s appeals. Here he 
was in the midst of interesting scenes and reminiscences. 
"Mr. Feme s manse," he writes, "is the same that the 
celebrated James Melville, minister of East Anstruther 
after the Reformation, lived in, and I spent most of my 
time on Saturday as also on Sabbath in his study, a 
little room over the stair which juts out from the house 
on the outside. It is called The Watch Tower/ and is 
well suited to the name, as it has three small windows 
looking east, west, and south, from which one can see 
almost all the town and the whole frith." And again, 
two days afterwards, July ist, "I spent the day chiefly 
alone, seeking personal holiness, the fundamental requi 
site in order to a successful ministry. I was in Burleigh 
Castle for an hour on the first floor, which is arched 
and entire, having climbed up by a broken part of the 
wall. Before me I had to the right Queen Mary s Island 
in Lochleven, and to the left the Lomonds, where the 
Covenanters hid themselves from their persecutors, and 
I stood amid the ruins of the castle of one of their 
leaders. The scene was solemn and affecting, and I trust 
the everlasting Emmanuel was with me. O that I had 
a martyr s heart, if not a martyr s death and a martyr s 
crown !" 

After rapid visits to Strathmiglo, Milnathort, Cleish, 
Kinross, and Dunfermline, he now proceeded westward 
by Stirling, Gargunnock, and Kippen, to Kilsyth, and 
thence, after nearly a month of quiet pastoral work, which 
was to him almost like repose, northward to those scenes 
amongst the "Sabbath hills," where we have now to 



trace his footsteps. Here his own journal is so full and 
interesting, and gives withal so vivid a picture of the 
whole form and idea of his life, that I am tempted to 
give the larger part of it almost entire. He had left 
Kilsyth on the i2th August, and after spending two 
days of incessant labour in Glasgow, proceeded north 
ward via Lochlomond and Glen Falloch to Lawers, 
where he commenced his labours on Sabbath the i6th, 
the day referred to by Mr. Macgregor, and thence advanced 
gradually eastward to Fortingall, Aberfeldy, Logierait, 
Moulin, Tenandry, Kirkmichael, as God in his providence 
opened the way, welcomed everywhere by a solemnly 
expectant and willing people. His first entry is at Inver- 
arnan, at the head of Lochlomond, and opens with a 
graphic incident characteristic of the place and of the 
people : 

"Inverarnan, Friday, August i^th. I travelled to Inver- 
arnan, at the head of Lochlomond, where I slept. Nothing 
particular occurred by the way, except that I spoke to one or 
two of my fellow-travellers, wandering in quest of pleasure, 
and was generally in such a dead frame of soul that I 
had to remain below, and could not dare to open my mouth 
in the Lord s name. At Inverarnan I spent much of the 
afternoon in wandering about and admiring the grandeur of 
the Lord s works in this mouth of the Highlands of Perthshire. 
I noticed two things among the people as affording an index 
to the nature of the privileges they had enjoyed. Some 
seemed to have full knowledge of a kind that is only to be got 
by hearing the most spiritual and systematic of our Scottish 
preachers, and one woman I met on the road who seemed to 
me a perfect specimen of a groaning hypocrite (perhaps I am 
doing her injustice, the Lord pardon me if I am) ; as soon as 


I began to speak to her, she wrung her hands and twisted her 
features as if trying to manufacture the symptoms of repent 
ance, &c. This agreed well with what I know had been the 
Lord s dealings with this part of the country. They have had 
under some ministers the very best preaching, and some of the 
people retain not only the mould of the doctrine taught them, 
but the recollection of the deep and overpowering emotions 
which it produced in the hand of the Spirit upon many minds 
at a former period; particularly about twenty years ago, 
when Breadalbane, &c., was signally blessed of the Lord, 
under the preaching of Mr. M Donald and other godly min 
isters. Evening, I had a meeting in the toll-house adjoining 
the inn, with about twenty persons, chiefly men, who seemed 
solemnized. The innkeeper was not very anxious for this 
meeting when I spoke of it to him. He had much scriptural 
knowledge, and many of his expressions put me in mind of 
Mr. M Donald s phraseology, but his attachment to his trade 
seemed stronger than his theology. His family I was much 
interested in, and they upon the whole received me well, 
though I did not spare the publicans trade even when Mrs. 
M Callum was present. I this forenoon travelled by the 
Dunkeld coach from Inverarnan to Lawers, up Glen Falloch, 
down Glen Dochart, and by Killin along the side of Loch 
Tay, a splendid route for a great part of the way. I did little 
on the way but sigh occasionally over the poor people whom 
we passed, and to wish them an interest in Emmanuel. I 
also gave away one or two little books to Highland boys in 
their kilt, who hung upon the coach from time to time. Dear 
boys, they looked surprised and pleased ! At Killin I break 
fasted along with two young gentlemen on a fishing excursion, 
who seemed to eye me suspiciously with my black clothes 
and white neck-cloth, and took care to allow me to begin 
breakfast before them, I thought, in order that I might not 
ask a blessing aloud. When leaving them I said, I am a 
fisher too. They looked grave, and one of them said, Oh ! a 
fisher of men, I suppose. Yes, I said, but like other fishers 


we have often to complain of a bad fishing season. They 
smiled, and so we parted. I arrived at Lawers at one P.M., 
and found Mr. Campbell a truly pious and very kind man. 
His partner equally so. Evening, I walked up the hill, and 
prayed for the outpouring of the Holy Ghost. I had, how 
ever, to walk by faith and not by sense. 

"Lawers, Sabbath, Augiist i6th. A congregation of, I 
suppose, fifteen hundred assembled, though the day was 
unfavourable, at the tent by twelve o clock, to whom I 
preached, but with little assistance, speaking comparatively, 
from Luke xxiv. 16, &c. ; at the end I told them that I had got 
no message for them from the Lord, but that I was not there 
fore led to despair of yet getting a blessing among them, as 
I generally found that when the Lord meant to pour out his 
Spirit, he first made both preacher and people sensible that 
without him they could do nothing. A godly man has since 
that time told me that he felt an unusual fulness of heart that 
morning at family worship, and thought there would be some 
thing unusual done. Evening, We met in the church, which 
holds five hundred sitters, and was crowded. I preached 
from the parable of the barren fig-tree, and had much more 
assistance. A good many were in tears, and one cried aloud 
as we were dismissing them. 

" Lawers, Monday, August ijth. We met for public wor 
ship at twelve o clock. The church was crowded, though the 
day was very stormy. I spoke from the 5 ist and 32d Psalms, 
particularly upon confession of sin, and the people seemed 
very solemnly impressed, some, perhaps many, being in tears. 
When I had done Mr. Campbell came up and spoke a little 
very solemnly in Gaelic, and the people became much more 
visibly moved. When the blessing was pronounced a great 
many remained in their seats, and some of them began to 
cry out vehemently that they were lost, &c. &c. We in con 
sequence continued praying and speaking to them until about 
five o clock, when we thought it good to let them remain alone, 
seeing that we were to have public worship again at six 


o clock ; at half-past six Mr. Campbell of Glen Lyon preached 
in Gaelic from Matthew xxv. 10, and gave some account at 
the close of the wonderful work of the Lord at Tarbat in 
Ross-shire. When I went into the church near the close, I 
heard some persons groaning, and when we were separating 
one woman cried out bitterly. We parted about half-p^st 
eight, as we were to meet next day at twelve again. A great 

"Tuesday, August i8//z. We had a prayer-meeting at 
twelve, when the church was three-fourths filled. Mr. M Ken- 
zie began and was followed by Mr. Campbell, both in Gaelic. 
This occupied nearly two hours, and when I went to the pulpit 
I found it my duty to dismiss the people without detaining 
them any longer, offering, however, to converse with any in 
dividuals who might desire it. From one hundred and fifty to 
two hundred waited about the door, and with these I engaged 
in prayer. During the prayer the Spirit of God was mightily 
at work among us, so that almost all were deeply moved, and 
one man cried aloud. Mr. M Kenzie said that he almost never 
felt in the same way as at this time. After prayer I addressed 
the people in a series of miscellaneous remarks tending to 
bring them immediately to surrender to Jesus. Many I saw 
in tears, and among these a number of fine stout young 
Highlanders. We then prayed again, when the impression 
continued, and concluded by singing Psalm xxxi. 5. 

"This day at a quarter to one conversed with the following 
anxious inquirers : 

"i. M. C, aged seventeen, C h, East Lawers, Oh! I 

am deep, deep in sin. She got her eyes opened on Sabbath 
night in the church. I saw that I was utterly lost. I have 
not found Christ yet. Who can lead you to Christ? The 
Holy Spirit. Deeply affected. 

"2. C. C, above twenty, C e, West Lawers. Concerned 

three years ago, particularly from a sermon of Mr. Campbell s 
of Glen Lyon, on How shall we escape? &c. He said, that 
if they went away from the church neglecting Christ, they 


would be trampling on his bosom, &c. It was this that 
affected her. She has been more deeply affected during these 
days past. 

"3. C. R., aged twenty, C n, West Lawers. I can get 

no rest nor peace, my heart is seeking after something which 
I cannot get. This began when I came into the church on 
Monday morning and heard you praying. I felt as if my 
heart would come out. I have been seeking Christ, but I 
have not got near to him yet/ Deeply and tenderly affected. 

"4. R. M., servant to Mr. Campbell, came with them from 
Benbecula (about eighteen years) ; was awakened on Saturday 
night at worship in this room, the first meeting that I had 
after arriving. I felt as if something were gripping my heart 
in the inside, and could get no rest since that time. Seems 
deeply and habitually concerned. This we see, as she lives 
in the house. 

"5. J. M L., C r, West Lawers (about twenty years). 

A word of Mr. Campbell s of Glen Lyon, which he had at 
the sacrament (ten weeks ago), always keepit wee me. He 
said that Rebekah s brother asked her, Will you go with 
this man? and so he said we were to go with Christ. This 
keepit wee me, and when Mr. Campbell came into the pulpit 
on Monday night, I first thought, I have not yet gone with 
Christ/ and when he spoke of the door being shut, and we 
being out for ever, I saw that I would be out, &c. I have 
got no rest since. (She cried out in agony that night.) I 
often was concerned before, but it always went away when I 
came out. If the Lord had not been merciful I would have 
been in the place where his mercy is gone for ever long ago, 
to be sure, &c. 

"6. B. M G., M h, four miles west (aged twenty-one 

years). Was a little touched at the Glen Lyon sacrament (ten 
weeks ago), when Mr. Campbell s brother was preaching, 
especially by his saying, If you are missing the Spirit it will 
be ill for you. I did not go on however at that time until 
Sabbath, when I felt something at my heart, I did not know 

JEt. as-] FORTINGALL. 199 

what, and I got worse and worse every day. I heard my 
conscience crying I was guilty in everything/ &c. &c. 

"7. C. C, aged fifteen, a cousin of M. C, stays at C h, 

East Lawers; awakened on Monday forenoon; can make 
little out of her, she has so little English. 

"8. C. M G., aged fourteen, C h; awakened yesterday 

forenoon at Struan. She has little English, and I had 
to question her, through Mr. Campbell, in Gaelic; yet she 
understood enough to reach her heart, and told me in Gaelic 
that I had said their hearts were as hard as steel, and how 
when a sheep was lost they would all go out one this way, 
and one that way, and the shepherd would go to the hill till 
they found it, and then they would be satisfied, &c. &C. 1 . . . 

"In the evening I preached at six o clock to a crowded 
and most solemn audience from Isaiah xlv. 22, and enjoyed 
some degree of assistance, I think. We concluded about 
nine o clock, but just as the people were going away a 
woman that is a sinner cried out vehemently, and we had to 
stay and pray again. Many of the people were in tears, and 
among these some stout hardy men. Praise to the Lord ! It 
is sweet to see how the people show their kindness when their 
hearts are opened to Jesus. During these few days there 
have been four fat lambs sent as presents, some to Mr. 
Campbell and some to me, with many other articles, such as 
butter, &c. 

" Breadalbane, Fortingall, Friday August list. In the 
Lord s wonderful providence, the minister of this dead parish 
consented to my preaching there this day at twelve noon, 
and accordingly we went ; this morning I felt such an entire 
vacancy of mind and heart, that it seemed impossible that I 
could preach. However in secret prayer before leaving the 
manse I had hopes of a good day. The people were met at 
the tent, but the wind being high we adjourned to the church. 
I spoke with assistance at the outset from Psalm Ixxii. 16-18, 

1 These few cases are given here once for all, as a specimen of the 
sort of notices which occur constantly in the course of these journals. 


and had considerable enlargement in prayer. The subject 
was conversion; text, Matthew xviii. 3, and in discoursing 
upon this I experienced more assistance in attempting to 
speak home to the very marrow of men s souls than at almost 
any other time (a few occasions excepted). Two wicked men 
could not stand it, as we supposed, and retired from their 
seats. Many others, and among these the stoutest men, were 
in tears. At the conclusion, when I had pronounced the 
blessing, I sat down in the pulpit in secret prayer as usual, 
but to my amazement I heard nobody moving ; and waiting 
a full minute I rose and saw them all standing or sitting, 
with their eyes in many cases filled with tears, and all fixed 
on the pulpit. It was indeed a solemn moment, the most 
solemn Mr. M Kenzie and Mr. Campbell said they had ever 
seen. I asked them what they were waiting for, and whether 
they were waiting for Christ. I prayed again, when there 
was the utmost solemnity, and then spoke a little from a 
Psalm which we sung, and then parted at four P.M. The 
people retired slowly and most of them in tears. We dined 
at the manse, when all were very serious, and came away 
immediately in order to hold a meeting in this parish at six 
o clock. As we came along the road we overtook some men 
and women in deep distress, as their tears and sober counten 
ances indicated, and their iron grasp when we shook hands 
with them. Many also came to their doors and recognized 
us with evident concern. At six we had a meeting for an 
hour and half in a house at the east end of this parish, when 
about a hundred were present. Praise to the Lamb ! 

"In the evening I walked up the side of Ben Lawers, until 
I could command a view from the head of Glen Dochart to 
Dunkeld, having Loch Tay in the centre from Kenmore to 
Killin. It was a beautiful evening, and the scene was 
magnificent. However, all my thoughts of external scenery 
were well-nigh absorbed in the thought of the wonderful 
works of Jehovah which I had witnessed during the week 
that was closing among the poor inhabitants of this splendid 


theatre of the Lord s creation. I could have supposed that I 
had been in Breadalbane for a month instead of a week ; the 
events that had passed before me were so remarkable and so 
rapid in succession. It has been indeed a resurrection of 
the dead, sudden and momentous as the resurrection of the 
last day nay, far more momentous than it to the individuals 
concerned. After coming home I was alone, and felt much 
my need of a broken and grateful heart. Mr. Campbell was 
telling me of some very noted sinners among his people whom 
he had met with, and who seemed to be genuine penitents. 

"Breadalbane, Ardeonaig, Sabbath, August 2$d. This 
morning I crossed the loch at a quarter past eleven, along 
with hundreds of the people, to preach at the missionary 
station of Ardeonaig, under the charge of a most primitive 
Christian minister, Mr. M Kenzie, a nephew of Lachlan 
M Kenzie, late minister of Loch Carron, a very remarkable 
and eminently honoured minister of Jesus. The tent was 
placed on the hill-side behind the manse, very nearly on the 
spot where it stood in the days of the former revival under 
Mr. M Donald of Urquhart, and the minister who then was 
placed here, the eminently godly Mr. Findlater, whose memory 
is sweet in this neighbourhood. There was an immense 
assembly, collected from a circuit of from twelve to twenty 
miles, which could not amount to less than 3000. Mr. 
M Kenzie began in Gaelic at eleven. I succeeded him in 
English at one, preaching from Ezekiel xxxiii. n. I felt a 
great uplifting of the heart in pride before God, and though 
I was enabled so far to get over this as to be able to speak 
boldly and strongly upon the evil ways of men from which 
they are called to turn, yet I could make nothing of the dis 
play of Jehovah s love which is made in the words, As I live, 
I have no pleasure, &c. ; and though I stopped and prayed 
with the people for assistance, yet I had to conclude abruptly, 
having nothing to say but what would profane and degrade 
in the eyes of the hearers these marvellous words. I came 
into the house at four o clock, much cast down on account of 


the reigning vanity and pride, and self-seeking of my desper 
ately wicked heart, and was driven to my knees, when I found 
the Lord very gracious, and had a sweet anticipation given 
me of the Lord s presence in the evening, when we were to 
meet in the church. Accordingly we met at six o clock. I 
did not discourse on any set subject, but was led to speak 
upon the Psalm which we were to sing (Psalm cii. 11-14), 
and in this I felt so much enlarged, that both people and 
preacher were tenderly moved with a view of Emmanuel s 
love. After we had prayed I made a few additional remarks 
of a miscellaneous kind, which seemed also to come home to 
the heart. When we were separating, some individuals 
began to cry aloud. I tried to quiet them, as I am always 
afraid that they are in danger of drawing the attention of 
many who are less affected away from considering the state 
of their own souls. However, they could not be composed, 
and when I went up to the gallery, where the most of them 
were, I found to my joy that they were persons from Fortingall, 
who had I suppose been impressed on Friday. We took 
them along with a number of other persons in the same state 
into the manse, and after prayer sent them away, though not 
in the best state for going to so great a distance. Praise ! I 
saw a number of men in the church much affected, but they 
did not come so prominently forward, being better able to 
restrain their feelings. . . . 

"Monday, August 24^. During the greater part of the 
day my soul was in a light and easy frame, for which I was 
rebuked in speaking with Mr. M Kenzie; and from this time 
till the hour of meeting I was under a humbling sense of 
pride and impious profanity of heart in the work of God, 
insomuch that it seemed to me almost beyond hope that I 
should be supported of the Lord in his public service. I 
could fix on no passage to speak from, but was led to study 
with a personal reference Ezekiel xxxvi. 25-27. After I had 
sung and prayed in the church, I was thinking of speaking 
on this passage, but not having very clear direction to it, I 

JEt. 25.] "WHEN T AM WEAK, THEN AM i STRONG." 203 

thought it better to sing again that I might have further 
opportunity to cry to the Lord for guidance. I opened the 
psalm-book and my eye rested on Psalm Ixix. 29. The 
suitableness of the words to my own spiritual state attracted 
me, and I began to make a few remarks in consequence 
upon them. I soon however got so much divine light 
and assistance in commenting on them, that I spoke from 
them I suppose for an hour, much affected in my own soul, 
and to an audience in general similarly moved. Mr. M Kenzie 
seemed much affected, and said when we came into the 
manse that I had not had such an hour in Breadalbane 
before. Oh ! how wonderful are the Lord s dealings ! how 
fitted to humble the pride of all flesh, and teach us a child 
like and entire dependence on him for all blessings ! We 
were hardly in the manse until a number of men and women 
came in after us, in deep distress of soul, with whom we had 
to pray again. . . . 

"Lowers, Tuesday, August 2$th. We had a meeting here 
at one o clock, of thanksgiving to Jehovah for his glorious 
work in the souls of the people here during the past days. 
It was conducted chiefly in Gaelic by Mr. Campbell and Mr. 
M Kenzie. I spoke a few words at the end, from Psalm 
cxlix. 1-4. The people seemed in a very solemn frame. As 
we came from the ferry-boat, we looked into the old church 
on the lochside, now used as a barn, and joined in giving 
the Lord praise for the marvellous displays of his saving 
grace made in it to many who are now in heaven ! Evening, 
we had a public meeting at six. The evening was fine, and 
the audience could not be much under 700, I think. Many 
had come a distance of 8 miles. I was, as yesterday, brought 
under a deep sense of my inability to say anything to the 
Lord s glory previous to our assembling, but I was aided in 
my extremity in no less a degree. I read Mark ix. 41-50, 
and preached from Luke xvi. 16. I believe I never spoke 
more faithfully in the pulpit than at this time from these 
three particulars : He that presses into the kingdom of God, 

204 L1FE OF REV - WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1840. 

I. Sets his whole heart on Christ. II. He gives up all that 
would prevent his following the Lord fully. III. He fights 
his way to heaven through the opposition of his enemies, 
i. The Devil. 2. The world. 3. The old man, &c. &c. There 
was very little visible emotion among the people, but the most 
affecting solemnity and most rivetted attention. It was as if 
the veil that hides eternity had become transparent, and its 
momentous realities were seen appearing to the awe-struck 
eyes of sinners. We parted at a quarter-past nine, after 
pressing on the people to retire directly home to the throne 
of grace. I am told to-day (Wednesday) by Mr. Campbell, 
that for a quarter of a mile from the church every covered 
retreat was occupied by awakened souls pouring out the heart 
to God. He seems to think, from all that he saw and has 
heard to-day, that last night was the most solemn season 
that we have had at this time. Praise, praise ! O humble me, 
good Shepherd, and be thou exalted over all ! Amen. . . . 
"Lowers, Friday, August 2&th. We rode home by Fortin- 
gall, passing down to the foot of Glen Lyon, through some of 
the most sublime scenery that I ever witnessed. ... I 
felt awfully the power of corruption in my heart by the way, 
and when we were within a mile of the foot of the glen I 
went out and getting down among the rocks by the river side, 
where the voice was lost in the noise of the gushing flood, I 
was enabled to cry aloud for help to the Lord. The Lord 
heard me I think, though, alas ! I neither then, nor almost at 
any time, can get so near to him as I did in former times ; 
I come rather as a minister than as a sinner. Lord, help 

me ! At Fortingall I met G G , formerly in the 79th 

regiment, in which he served at eight storms and twelve 
general engagements, and yet escaped with a single wound. 
He is known in the country as an awful drunkard and a 
discontented radical, and yet, to the astonishment of many, 
he was so much affected when I was at Fortingall, that he has 
been with us at all our meetings since. He said, There is an 
impression on my soul, and I am determined to follow it out. 


I could not see that he had got a full view of his sins, but 
it was sweet to see him even inquiring. ... I could not 
believe, when on the way home, that it was possible for 
me to address in the evening a public meeting at Kiltire, four 
miles west from Lawers, but when going to the place of 
meeting I felt that humiliation under God s gracious hand 
which filled me with hope. The house was crowded, and 
many were outside at the windows. There must have been 
250 in all. I spoke from John x. 27, and had my closed lips 
again opened, to my own astonishment. The people were 
deeply solemnized and tenderly moved. It was our last 
meeting, and I know that many would have wished to shake 
hands at parting ; yet I was rejoiced to see that they seemed 
so solemnly engaged about the truth, that few sought after 
this and went rapidly off in solemn silence. Indeed, I think 
I never had so pleasing a separation from any people. Glory 
to the Lord ! In walking home I overtook a few of the people. 
They said nothing, but walked in thoughtful silence, and in 
some cases wept. ... In looking back upon this work 
from the beginning till now, it appears to me more clearly the 
fruit of the sovereign operations of God s Spirit than almost any 
other that I have seen. We have never needed to have any 
of those after-meetings which I have found so necessary and 
useful in other places, the people were so deeply moved under 
the ordinary services. I never saw so many of the old 
affected as in this case. The number of those affected are 
greater in proportion to the population than I have ever seen, 
and there has been far less appearance of mere animal excite 
ment than in most of the cases that I have been acquainted 
with. Perhaps most of these advantages are to be traced to 
the excellent ministry under which they have been, and to 
their universal acquaintance with conversion as a necessary 
change, and one that some of their fathers underwent. 

"Lawers, &*c., Saturday, August 29^. I left my dear 
and kind friends at half-past twelve by the coach, after 
visiting a young man on his sick-bed, a son of the Baptist 


minister. Many of the people recognized me as we went 

along. Mrs. M N - or Mary M G , who was on the 

road, burst into tears and threw herself down upon the dyke. 
We had a delightful drive. At Kenmore a gentleman in clerical 
dress, who had been on the front of the coach, addressed me 
and said, l You have very affectionate hearers ; I am glad to 
see it. I am a minister of the Church of England, and have 
under my care fifteen thousand souls in the heart of London/ 
&c. Another English gentleman who was standing at the 
inn said to me, That is one of the excellent of the earth, his 

name is Mr. W . He was a missionary, but had to come 

home from bad health, and is now travelling from the same 
cause. He had a livery servant with him. He left us at 
Aberfeldy, and I went down and spoke to him while the 
horses were changing. He seemed a sweet humble Christian 
man. Oh! he said, that is a heavenly scene, if we had 
only a heaven within ; at least / want that, &c. We parted 
with Christian salutations. The Lord s people are indeed one 
in him, though separated in the world. . . . 

"Moulin, Tuesday September %th. This morning I rode 
with Mr. C. to Straloch, in this parish, through Glen Brirachan, 
and then preached to about five hundred in the open air at 
twelve o clock. I was under a heavy load of conscience all 
the way to the place of meeting. I got a little relief during 
the time that Mr. Drummond of Kirkmichael, who had come 
to meet us, prayed in an adjoining house before I began ; but 
still I was in such bondage of spirit that I could hardly speak 
to the people, feeling as if they were seeing the infidelity and 
hypocrisy of my heart from my countenance, and so being 
unable to look them directly in the face. My text was Isaiah 
xxxii. 2, first clause, in which I considered, 1st. Why we 
needed a covert, &c. 2d. What was meant by the wind and 
tempest. 3d. Who the man spoken of is. 4th. How he 
becomes a hiding-place. After some introductory remarks on 
the text I prayed, and then got considerable liberty in speak- , 
ing of the evil of sin, and its deserving the wind and tempest 

^Et. 2 5 .] MOULIN. 207 

of divine wrath. However, when I proceeded to the second 
head, this assistance was withdrawn, and I was so dark and 
dead that I had to draw quickly to a close. I prayed, and 
gave out a concluding psalm, during which Mr. Campbell 
came and pressed me to say a few words more, as there 
were people there who in all likelihood would not be got at 
again. This affected me, yet I could get no greater liberty 
to speak, and told him that I could not speak at that time 
for the whole world. I intimated when I had pronounced 
the blessing, that I desired to speak further to them, and 
that I was persuaded there must be some cause, either in 
me or in some of them, for the withdrawal of the Spirit 
of God ; but that though I had no message for them at that 
time, I would rejoice to remain with any who were really 
desiring a blessing to their souls, and join in crying to the 
Lord for his help. No one went away. We joined in prayer, 
the people with far greater solemnity, and I with some degree 
of liberty ; and after I had ended I felt so carried above the 
power of my enemies, that I began at once upon the topics 
I had left ; and throwing down the gauntlet to the enemies of 
Jesus, I spoke for a long time with such assistance that I felt 
as if I could have shaken the globe to pieces through the 
views I got of the glory of the divine person of Christ, and 
of his atoning sacrifice to rescue sinners from eternal death. 
The people were bent down beneath the word like corn under 
the breeze, and many a stout sinner wept bitterly. We 
separated about four o clock, and I felt myself called, in con 
sequence of what I had seen and felt, to agree to Mr. 
Drummond s request that I should go to Kirkmichael on 
Sabbath week instead of to Grandtully as I had intended. 
Glory to the Lord! We had some of the gentry there in 
tears! . . . 

" Wednesday, September qth. I rode up in the forenoon to 
B., the property of Mr. S. of S., Perth, where he and his 
family at present are; with the view of preaching at Tenandry 
church, near which they are. The scene is the most sublime 


that I have almost ever seen, including the pass of Killie- 
crankie, &c. &c. ; but I have no time, even had I the power, 
to describe the grandeur of the Lord s works in nature. I 
felt the temptation to be unfaithful to the rich man with 
whom I was called to live, and through this compliance un 
faithful also to the poorer classes around. If we are unfaith 
ful to the rich and great all our faithfulness to others must be 
more or less hypocritical. This I felt, and being made to cry 
to the Lord for help, I got so completely over it that when 
preaching in the evening at Tenandry, with the S. s, Mrs. H. 
of S., the builder of the church, 1 &c., present, I spoke boldly 
and openly of many things that the rich alone could under 
stand, and which they would find it hard to bear unless they 
would unreservedly submit to Christ and his cross. We met 
at five o clock; I spoke from Hebrews iv. 7. At first I had 
assistance enough to expound, but not enough to reach the 
conscience with keen exhortation and reproof. However, 
after praying, I got this for a considerable time, and the 
people were so much affected that all were rivetted in their 
looks and some were weeping audibly. The plan followed 
was this: I considered the meaning of, ist. Hearing God s 
voice. 2d. Hardening the heart. 3d. The arguments against 
this sin. (a) Our losing the promised rest ; () Our having 
been long called already after so long a time; (c) Our 
being called to-day. After I had prayed I sought to im 
prove these truths by selecting a few passages of God s word, 
such as Ye must be born again, &c.; Come now and let us 
reason together; and pressed the people by the arguments 
of the text to hear and obey these immediately as the -voice 
of God. It was this part that seemed to come chiefly home. 
We had an after-meeting with the anxious, who seemed to be 
numerous. 2 . . . 

1 Situated in the birch wood overhanging the pass of Killiecrankie. 

This service," says one who was present, "lasted from five 

o clock till nine, beginning early for the convenience of those who 

had long distances to walk home, and continued late because the 

^Et. 25.] . LOGIERAIT. 209 

"Saturday, September 12th. At six P.M. I left Moulin 
manse, and had a very solemn and affecting parting from this 
dear family. The servants I conversed with individually 
during the day, and all, but particularly three of them, were 
very deeply affected, as they had previously been in church at 
several of the meetings. Leaving Moulin by Mr. C. s gig, I 
drove down the strath to Logierait, where I was kindly re 
ceived by Mr. Buchanan (another Moderate minister) and his 
sister. I spent the evening for the most part alone, and in 
conversation with Mr. B., who is a man of superior talents 
and attainments in knowledge, and seems to have a good dis 
position towards those remarkable outpourings of the Holy 
Spirit in Scotland against which so many are arrayed in 
open enmity. 

"Logierait, Sabbath, September i^tk. The morning was 
fine, and an immense congregation assembled at twelve 
o clock in the churchyard, with whom I continued unin 
terruptedly until five P.M., singing, praying, and preaching 
the word of life. The subject was 2 Corinthians v. IQ-VL 2. 
The people were very solemnly affected, indeed more visibly 
so than on any previous Sabbath that I have been in the 
Highlands ; at one time many were crying aloud in agony, 
and tears were flowing plentifully throughout the audience. 
One of the addresses that seemed most signally blessed 
originated in a somewhat remarkable way. As I was about 
to engage in prayer at the middle of the service, I noticed 
two young gentlemen looking down upon the audience from 
a little eminence a few hundred yards distant from us ; and 
feeling a strong desire to say something that might arrest 
them in their carelessness at so awfully solemn a time, I 
called on the people of God to join me in praying for them, 

hearers hung upon the preacher s words until the sun had set and 
the full moon had arisen. It was a memorable night in the history 
of many." Notes of Addresses by the Rev. William C. Burns, edited 
by M. F. Barbour, page 28, where a sketch of the sermon will be 



and spoke so loud that they could easily hear me. When I 
was doing this a third young man ascended to my view, and 
joined his companions. The three put me in mind of the 
three young men who were so remarkably converted at the 
Kirk of Shotts, when going to Edinburgh to be present at 
some scenes of public amusement. I told this anecdote, en 
larging upon many things which it suggested with much 
liberty, and the impression seemed to be deeply affecting. The 
young men in my view, as soon as they heard me speaking 
of them, and had the eyes of the congregation turned upon 
them, withdrew from their position and came near, concealing 
themselves behind the church, where they no doubt heard 
what was said. The rich people, with very few exceptions, 
remained to the end; and some of them I thought seemed 
solemnly affected, at least for the time. Some of the most 
pointed appeals were addressed specially to them. Mr. B. 
seemed satisfied, and gave me encouragement to come to 
him again. Both he and Mr. C. of Moulin expressed them 
selves as agreeably disappointed, having expected to hear 
something very exciting, and not solid and sober. 

"Monday, September itf/i. This day I spent chiefly alone, 
in letter-writing, &c., having no meeting in the evening. Oh ! 
how sweet and profitable to my soul I find a day on which 
I have no public duty ! Would that I had more such, if it 
were the Lord s holy will ! In ordinary cases they would be 
absolutely indispensable, but when the Lord moves in so 
mighty and sovereign a manner as he is doing now, the 
mountains become a plain. 

" Tuesday, September i$th. Mr. B. left to-day to be absent 
from home for a fortnight, and parted with me, expressing 
regret that we could not meet again in public, and pressing 
me kindly to make all the use I could of his house, &c., in his 
absence. This I did. We joined solemnly in prayer before 
parting. The Lord bless him ! Evening : I went down three 
and a half miles toward Dunkeld and preached at Dowally. 
The subject I forget. The season was pleasant but in no 


respect remarkable. I went home again to Logierait at 

" Wednesday, September ifath. Being tired last night, and 
having told the servant that she need not awaken me in the 
morning, I slept until past ten A.M., and got up, fearing to be 
too late for the Lochlomond coach, which passed up to 
Grandtully on the other side of the Tay at eleven o clock, and 
trembling at the thought of being hurried so quickly through 
my secret duties. I got hastily ready, and without taking 
any breakfast got my luggage ready and set off. On reaching 
the ferry-boat I learned to my grief that the coach had passed 
fully a quarter before the usual time, and was already out of 
sight, and that thus I was left to walk a distance of six miles. 
I went on with my bag in my hand, thinking that the Lord 
might have some design of a gracious kind concealed under 
this frowning occurrence ; and when I had gone about one 
and a half miles, and was passing through the little village 
of Balnaguard I discovered one which fully explained his 
mysterious intention. For after I had passed a great number 
of people engaged under the burning sun in cutting down and 
also in gathering in the plenteous fruits of the earth, two men 
in the prime of life came running to meet me, evidently under 
concern about their state, and pointing to a school-house 
beside us, the shutters of which were shut in consequence of 
it being the harvest season, pressed me to meet the people 
there though it were but for half an hour. I went in, and in 
the course of not more than seven minutes the room was 
crowded to the door by people of all ages, from the child of 
seven to the grandfather of seventy. We prayed ; I read the 
7oth Psalm in the metrical version, and made a few remarks on 
the last eight lines ; we then prayed again, and I came away 
leaving these dear people in as solemn a frame, to all appear 
ance, as I have ever witnessed any audience. There could 
not be fewer than one hundred and twenty present, and 
among these I hardly saw one that was not shedding tears. 
The wonderful providence by which we had been brought 


together affected us much, and I was so much struck with 
the dealing of God in this and in the state of the people, that 
I intimated another prayer-meeting among them for Friday 
forenoon, when I expected to pass them on my way to visit 
Dowally a second time. During the time of our meeting 

I noticed a farmer of the name of M G. of H of Grand- 

tully, come in and stand listening with the most rivetted 
attention to what was said. He was a rough-looking man, 
and one whom I noticed in this character the first night that 
I was at Grandtully, saying to myself, How wonderful it 
would be to see that man brought under conviction of sin. 
From his appearance at Logierait on Sabbath, and now at 
this meeting, I entertained a hope that this might be the case. 
When I came out and met him, my hope was agreeably con 
firmed. Having to go from home on business, and being 
anxious to be at our meeting at Grandtully in the evening, 
he had set out very early and was now returning in the 
utmost haste. When he heard that I was at Balnaguard he 
sent home his horse that he might be present and accompany 
me home. We accordingly had a good deal of solemn con 
verse on the way. He seemed under deep concern, and 
pressed me to go in, though my time was nearly gone, and 
pray with them. I did so, and hardly had I entered when 
the room was filled with old and young, collected from the 
harvest-field. Without saying a word we joined in prayer, 
and so remarkably was the presence of God granted that 
all were in tears, and some cried aloud. After prayer I left 
this scene, which was certainly one that displayed the finger 
of God as much as any one in which I ever was, and 
walked home in company with R. D., a stepson of M G s., 
and the boy who cried out in the church at Grandtully on 
the first night that I was there. He seems to continue 
under deep concern, and has got some comfort since that 
time. He went, dear boy, with me to carry my bag. When 
we had got to a considerable distance, a number of those 
who had been affected in the house came running across the 


fields to meet us again, weeping bitterly ; but I did not en 
courage this, and sent them to secret prayer. I arrived at 
Grandtully by five o clock, and hardly conscious of fatigue. 
The Lord will give strength to his people. As thy days, 
so shall thy strength be I" 

Here we must reluctantly break off this remarkable 
and deeply interesting itinerarium. Remarkable and 
interesting I cannot doubt that it will be regarded by 
every Christian mind, however differently men may judge 
in regard to some of the points which it naturally raises 
for consideration. It brings, indeed, into the strongest 
relief at once that in him which in the view of all was most 
admirable, and that which was most peculiar, and in the 
view of some open to question. In particular the pre 
dominantly, sometimes almost exclusively subjective char 
acter of his ministry stands out in the broadest light. He 
spoke, apparently could speak, only what he felt, and that 
only while he felt it, and so far as he felt it. He must utter 
the very present experience and conviction of his soul, or 
be silent altogether. Out of the abundance of the heart 
alone could his mouth speak. The declaration of a mere 
intellectual belief, or remembered conviction of the past, 
seemed to him a mockery and almost a falsehood. His 
preaching was thus in the strictest sense a cardiphonia 
the voice of an instrument that could sound only as the 
breath of the eternal Spirit of God swept over it. Truths 
merely known, believed, arranged in logical sequence in 
the mind or in written discourse, was to him no message 
from God to human souls; but only truth "quick and 
powerful," and glowing in living fire within the heart. 


Most significant in this point of view are such expressions 
as these in one of the above extracts: "I could not speak 
at that time for the whole world." He said afterwards of 
the same occasion to a friend, "that the adversary of souls 
had been at his right hand the whole time; and that each 
statement which he sought to make from the Word of 
God seemed to be contradicted by a voice within as soon 
as made." At another time he felt as if the people might 
see through his very eyes the hypocrisy and falsehood of 
his heart, while he uttered mechanically the sound of 
words, the life and power of which he did not feel. I 
offer no opinion now in regard to the profound question 
here involved : whether the principle on which he acted 
was in itself just; or whether, if just for him, the course of 
action to which it led were a fit precedent and example 
for other men. The question is not even properly raised 
in this form, for his whole ministry during those remark 
able years was so plainly exceptional that no warrantable 
inference can be drawn from his case to that of others. 
His function and vocation was rather that of the old 
prophets uttering from time to time the message and the 
"burden" given to them under the immediate impulse of 
the Spirit who gave it, than that of the priests whose 
lips ought at all times to keep knowledge, and to impart 
its sacred lessons to others even when for the time they 
enjoy not the full sweetness of it themselves. Even those 
who may think that the principle on which he acted was 
carried out by him to too extreme a point will scarcely 
deny the general truth, that however it may be with the 
other functions of the pastoral office as of instruction, 


admonition, counsel, persuasion, consolation for the 
special work of awakening souls an awakened and imme 
diate sense of eternal realities is of all things most essential. 
It may be possible enough to explain a doctrine or enforce 
a duty without anything more than a general and habitual 
conviction of the truth involved, yet surely if we would 
make others weep we must weep ourselves. At least if 
in this matter he erred, he erred on a safer side than that 
of those who would divorce altogether the message of the 
preacher from the experience of the man, and who can 
discourse of the deepest and most sacred exercises of the 
soul with an equally free and fluent speech, with a cold 
and with a burning heart. Better a single word spoken 
in the spirit, than a thousand words of mere sounding 
breath; better to utter in a few broken sentences a real 
message from God, than to speak with the tongue of 
men and of angels a heartless, soulless message of our 

After all it can scarcely be doubted that the extreme 
fluctuation of feeling and of consequent freedom of utter 
ance manifested in these journals was in great measure 
owing to that exhaustion of the vital powers, and that 
lack of opportunity for studious meditation which the 
incessant labours of this period entailed; and that in more 
favourable circumstances his spiritual experiences might 
have been more equable, and his power in the pulpit 
more constant. It would appear from expressions which 
occur here and there in the journals that this was 
occasionally at least his own impression, and there is 
much in their general tenor which goes strongly to confirm 


that view. It is observable how often his times of deepest 
depression immediately succeeded his times of highest 
elevation, as though the one were at least in large measure 
the reaction of the other. The temporary quiescence of 
the feelings, equally with the corresponding languor of the 
bodily frame, was but the inevitable and even salutary 
result of the sudden unbending of the bow which had 
been too long and too tightly bent; and it was his trial 
rather than his error that he could, during these three 
remarkable years, so seldom obtain that needful restorative 
repose. It was in circumstances such as his that the 
gracious Master, who knoweth our frame and remembereth 
that we are dust, said to his disciples, when they were 
worn out with the greatness of their labours and with those 
manifold distractions which left them no leisure even to 
eat, " Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place and rest 
awhile." There was no such interval of retreat permitted 
to him now; but the enjoyment of that precious boon was 
reserved for another and not distant day. 


1841 1844. 


DURING the next three years Mr. Burns was in 
cessantly engaged in evangelistic work, partly in 
places which he had already visited, and partly in new 
fields. Of the latter the most conspicuous were New 
castle, Edinburgh, and Dublin, and to a brief notice of 
his labours there I propose to devote the present chapter. 
They were, of course, in most respects essentially similar 
to those which we have already described in Dundee and 
Aberdeen, but still possessed some features sufficiently 
distinct to deserve a separate, though less detailed record. 
At Newcastle, the first aspect of the field and his first trial 
of the work were not encouraging. I know not if the " sins 
and sorrows of the great city" be really greater there than 
in other communities of similar extent and character with 
which he had been before acquainted, but it seemed to 
him, at least, as if it were so. The giant forms of evil 
with which he had everywhere to contend, stood forth 
before the eye in more naked and unblushing prominence, 
as though iniquity were, in truth, too strong to feel 
ashamed or hide its face. He found himself in the 
presence of a power which, alike in its extent and terrible 

2l8 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. - BURNS. [1841-44- 

energy, startled and shocked him, and threw him back as 
scarce ever before on the power that is infinite and divine. 
"The people of God," he writes a few days after his 
arrival, "are rallying in their places, and we have them of 
every name on our side. Ah ! but the LORD is with me 
as a mighty, terrible ONE. This is enough." "I ask it 
as a favour," he writes to his endeared friend Mr. Milne, 
"xoA. plead for it, that you will lay before your people the 
case of Newcastle, an iron-walled citadel of Satan. Al 
mighty power, and that alone, can make a breach and 
plant the banner of salvation in the Lamb on its proud 
ramparts. They must cry, they must wrestle; for the 
devil is in the field, and the day will be hot." While, too, 
"the enemy thus came in like a flood," it seemed to him 
as if the forces on the other side were comparatively few 
and feeble. "The Scotch Church," says he, "is low here; 
the audiences were not large. During the week I 
preached every night but Tuesday and Saturday, but 
chiefly to the church-going few, including some Christians, 
with a view to stir them up to come nearer to God. . . . 
Went out at meal hour and began to invite sinners. Very 
apathetic. The sleep of death is on the city." 

The spell of apathy, however, was soon, at least par 
tially, broken. The announcement of a Sabbath pleasure 
trip of a more than usually offensive kind having met his 
eye, his spirit was stirred within him, and he denounced 
it in a terrible placard, which he signed with his own 
name and posted up in every street and open place in 
Newcastle. It fell like a bomb-shell in the midst of the 
community, startled the ears alike of friends and foes, 


and drew general attention to the preacher and his mes 
sage. A solemn tract on the sins of the city and the 
impending judgments of God was at the same time pre 
pared and sown broadcast among the people. The 
newspapers too, both local and metropolitan, took up the 
matter, bitterly denounced his proceedings, and thus still 
more loudly rang the bell of alarm in the ears of a com 
munity from whom he only desired a hearing, even 
though they should strike while they heard him. "News 
papers and Socialistic placards," wrote his friend Mr. 
Bonar of Kelso, "have been making Edinburgh, and I 
suppose other places, ring with your doings in Newcastle." 
But he remained calm amid the storm, unmoved alike by 
the rage of enemies and by the doubts and fears of friends, 
so only the cause of Christ were helped, and not hindered. 
"The people in Scotland," said he, "are thinking that the 
opposition must be awful here. But it is like bomb-shells 
thrown over our heads and bursting at a distance. They 
know more of it in London than I do in Newcastle. 
Thou hast covered my head in the day of battle. " 

Meanwhile, according to his wont, he soon exchanged 
the empty churches for the open and crowded streets 
preaching to varying audiences and with varying tokens 
of success on the quay, at the Spittal Square, in the Corn 
and Cloth Markets, in the open space beside the castle, 
sometimes in continuous and impressive discourse, some 
times in a running fire against Secularist or Romish 
objectors who started up as opponents from amongst the 
crowd; sometimes alone, and sometimes dividing the 
ground with the political lecturer or the puppet showman, 

220 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1841-44. 

who spread forth their rival wares at a few paces distance. 
He had some encouragement, but no very marked or 
decisive evidence of blessing. He speaks from time to 
time of "solemn attention;" "very great attention and 
eagerness;" "a very large and deeply solemn audience;" 
"a large audience who stood rivetted to the end;" of a 
"service of three hours duration, in the castle-yard where 
Whitfield preached of old;" "and would have remained 
almost till midnight;" "a considerable audience who con 
tinued immovable under darkness and rain;" "the people 
so much impressed that the stars were out in the sky 
before we separated;." "some of the old sailors on the 
quay weeping, and pressing their money on those who 
gave away the tracts at the end;" yet there were few or 
none who sought him out in private for spiritual counsel 
and instruction. Perhaps this might in part arise from 
the fact that his street audiences here consisted almost 
exclusively of men the softer and more impressible sex 
having, as he suggests, either less curiosity, or more fear 
of noisy crowds, than in the cities of the north. Now 
and then, too, after all his labours were over, he would go 
forth into the dark streets, with a bundle of his "plain 
sentences" under his arm, that he might see the city in 
its midnight dress, look down into the depths of that 
abyss of ruin which for the love of God and man he so 
vehemently longed to sound, and it may be hold out the 
torch of life eternal to some poor wanderer whom he 
might never hope to meet at any other place or time. 
Strange scenes would sometimes on these occasions meet 
his eyes and ears: "I went out after coming into my 

JEt. 26-29..] THE MIDNIGHT STREETS. 221 

room and with a bundle of the "plain sentences" paraded 
some of the chief streets. In this I met with some 
strange incidents. I offered near the mouth of the Arcade 
a copy to a gentleman half-intoxicated. He swore fear 
fully and said, Oh, what a cursed country this is! I 
might go through every town on the Continent, and not 
meet with such another rascal as you infesting me. Rome 
is infinitely better than this," &c. On another occasion 
he writes: "After the meeting I spent a half-hour on the 
street with tracts, and met with awful proofs of the 
enormous wickedness of the people, also with many whose 
language amid their sins seemed almost to be, Oh ! that 
I were saved, oh! that you could do me any good." One 
is reminded of the heathen in Tertullian s days, of whom 
he tells us that even their oaths and ejaculated utterances 
of grief and fear bore witness to their deep consciousness 
of God and of a higher world, and showed that the "testi 
mony of the soul" was by its very nature on the side of 
Christ. 1 Sometimes conscience would still more distinctly 
speak and take part with the reprover against the sinner: 
"I spoke to three young gentlemen intoxicated ; they 
mocked; but one of them, having separated from the 
rest, went along with me a short way. He then left me 
and whistled for his companions, but they had deserted 
him ; and conscience-stricken he called after me, and when 
I went back asked where I was from, my name and resid 
ence, and promised to call on Friday at five P.M., saying 
with some feeling, he had much need of a lecture. " 
Still there was no deep and general impression, and 

1 Testimonium animse naturaliter Christianas. 

222 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1841-44. 

even the partial interest that had been excited began after 
a season gradually to die down towards the former state 
of apathy. The congregations in church were small, the 
audiences in the open air less numerous and less solemn. 
The sensation created by the Sabbath placards was pass 
ing away, and no deeper and mightier influence apparently 
had come to supply its place. Even some of his friends, 
who had most sanguinely hoped for a rich and wide 
spread blessing, began to lose heart. " I had hope at one 
time," said one of the most ardent of these, "but now I 
confess it is gone. Every ear seems closed." He himself 
too almost despaired. ^ Receiving a letter from Mr. Parker, 
in which he expresses his astonishment that the people 
could bear his words, he writes in his journal bitterly, 
"Alas! the people can bear anything here as yet. The 
body seems so dead, that though you plunge the knife to 
the heart there is no pain." But it was only the lowest 
ebb, before the turning of the tide, and before another 
day had passed it was in full and buoyant flow. God had 
only made him utterly to despair of self, that he might the 
more simply and wholly triumph in Christ. We cannot 
here indulge in numerous extracts, but one or two con 
tinuous passages must be given, as affording a vivid picture 
of the nature of the hot battle which he had expected and 
which had come at last, and of the spirit in which he 
fought it : 

"Thursday, September 23^. During the day I was very 
weak in body, and was tempted to think of neglecting an 
opportunity of doing good at the cattle-show, which is held 
here this day. But the passage turned up, If thou say, 

,t. 26-29.] PREACHING AT CATTLE-SHOW. 223 

Behold, I knew it not, &c., and I was compelled to go. I 
found that there was no opportunity for preaching, as the 
show was within a park, and the people outside were staying 
but a few minutes. Alas ! perhaps it may be found in the 
day of God that there was opportunity. Certainly the show 
men found an opportunity of attracting many. However, I 
only gave away tracts, spoke to the people here and there, and 
intimated that I would preach in the cloth-market in the 
evening, which is at the end of the corn-market, the place 
where, at three P.M., about a thousand were to dine together. 
The tracts were received by high and low. . . . After 
dinner I felt my strength of body renewed, and had hope of 
something being done of God in the evening. A little after 
six we went to the scene of action, and found a great crowd 
around the place, many of them trying to see in through the 
windows, and multitudes waiting for the music at intervals. 
I thought of heaven lighted with the brightness of a thousand 
suns, and of poor lost souls longing to be in when it is too 
late, and forced to hear from afar the joyful praises of the 
redeemed, loud as the noise of many waters. We had no 
sooner begun than an immense crowd gathered round. Some 
of the enemies were enraged and urged the police to interfere, 
crying, Down with him, down with him. The policeman 
told me that the people were disturbed by us within, but this 
was so absurd that he did not insist on it ; and as he could 
not find us guilty of a breach of the peace, he soon went 
away. But although the enemy could hot oppose us by legal 
force, they did not cease to show their deadly hatred of what 
was said and done. Once a stone was thrown, again a 
quantity of manure, which bespattered my clothes. After 
wards, in the time of prayer, when we were prevailing against 
them without hand, they raised a burst of horrid laughter, 
and pushed the crowd at the side on me with the view of 
overthrowing the pulpit. At this time I had to pause in the 
prayer, and when I began to tell them that they could do 
nothing without the Lord s permission, and that all they did 

224 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1841-41- 

would promote his cause, &c., they were quieted for a time ; 
and I was led out to speak with greater power, perhaps, than 
ever before in Newcastle, putting the sword into the very 
heart and bowels of the town s iniquities. At this time, and 
ever after it until ten o clock, when we parted, there was the 
greatest solemnity, and a deep impression ; and though I was 
frequently interrupted with questions, they all tended to 
bring out in a marvellous way the truth of God, so that they 
who put them were silenced and the people rejoiced. During 
the first hour and half we were obliged to contend, at inter 
vals, with a tumult of people all around the music in the 
Corn-market, and the movements of a travelling show taking 
up its encampment close to us. Even amid those trials, 
although increased by the contradiction of sinners, I was 
enabled not to waver nor faint; afterward, however, the meet 
ing in the market broke up, the show people were quiet, the 
streets were nearly empty, and we worshipped the Lord amid 
solemn silence for another hour and half. At this time the 
singing was truly sublime ; and the whole scene, when con 
trasted with what it had lately been, was fitted to deepen the 
impression of the word in the hand of the Spirit. I did not 
speak on any text, but used the various circumstances of the 
feast so near as to set off by way of comparison and contrast 
the feast of fat things on Mount Zion. I did not proceed 
regularly, but from time to time noticed such topics as these: 
That feast is for the body, this is for the soul; that is one of 
which you easily take too much, in this you cannot exceed; 
that is soon over, this will last eternally; that would tire and 
nauseate if often repeated, this becomes sweeter every day ; 
that is only open to those who can pay for a place, this is 
provided freely for the poor : it is made/ra? not because it is 
of little value, but because it is so costly that no money can 
buy it, and in order that it may be a feast for all; that is 
made on bullocks and fatlings, but this, oh! wonder of won 
ders, is made on the body and blood of God s own Son; the 
greatest sinners are welcome to it now, and the greater they 


have been they will sit nearer the head of the table as hon 
oured guests, in order that the more the grace and mercy 
of Jehovah may be displayed to view! These and similar 
points gave ground from time to time for varied information 
to the mind, and appeals to the conscience which seemed 
to arrest many; and the effect of this was aided by the many 
truths which were from time to time drawn out by the ques 
tions and objections of enemies. One man cried there was 
no hell, and demanded a definition of it. He was answered, 
If thy right hand offend thee, &c., and remained silent. 
Another said there were no devils, and this was the occasion 
of tearing away the veil from the iniquities of the town, and 
exposing their power over men in its deformity and dread- 
fulness. Many in different ways tried to vex us, but this ex 
plained the text, Consider him who endured/ &c., and gave 
us ground for praise that we had not yet resisted unto blood. 
Nay, one shameless man, whose question the people would 
hardly bear, asked me, How are you supported? a matter 
of general wonder. I answered him that I never needed to 
ask a penny from any one, but that even since I came here 
10 had been sent to me unasked, and partly without a 
name ! x They seemed confounded. At ten o clock we asked 

1 It may be right to state here once for all, that from the time of 
his leaving Dundee until his departure for China, he relied wholly 
on such support as was spontaneously sent to him by those who 
desired to further his special work. The result was that while his 
own immediate wants were amply supplied, he seldom lacked suffi 
cient also to contribute liberally in behalf of Christ s cause and 
Christ s poor. The above is given as a specimen of such entries in 
regard to this matter as occur from time to time in his journal. 
The following is the first of these, of date, Perth, January, 1840: 
" Received ^"i from a friend for personal expenses, making now 
in all, given me since I ceased from my engagement at Dundee, 
^"53. So wonderfully is the Lord providing for all my wants ! 
Praise ! Oh Lord ! deliver me from covetousness, and enable me 
with overflowing gratitude and joy to give all that I don t require 


226 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1841-44- 

the parting blessing and separated indeed only for a moment, 
for when I got to the lamp I took out my Bible to look at a 
verse, and the whole crowd gathered round and stood with 
breathless attention while I read what God had sent me, 
None of these things move me/ &c., and told them some 
things about my own conversion. We then parted, and it 
would not have been so soon, had not the policeman desired 

" Though I spoke nearly four hours amid such difficulties 
in the open air I was not fatigued, and am well to-day. Oh ! 
that I were only well in soul, and fit to renew the combat. 
Come, Lord Jesus! come quickly! Amen! Amen! Glory 
to Jehovah ! 

"P. S When I came into my room and looked at the Bible 
which was lying open, my eye rested on Psalm cxi. 4, 5. Oh ! 
how glorious and how seasonable it was! He hath made 
his wonderful works to be remembered; the Lord is gracious, 
and full of compassion. He hath given meat unto them 
that fear him : he will ever be mindful of his covenant! 
Halleluiah ! 

"Friday, September 24^. Sometimes when we think we 
are much assisted, there may be less divine power attending 
the word than when we are ready to conclude nothing has 
been done. I trust, however, that the Lord is bringing me 
nearer to the town, and that soon his own artillery may be 
opening fire with effect on its central towers and carrying 
alarm into its citadel ! It is not at once that we can come 
into close conflict with such an enemy, and time is needed 
to study the enemy s position and weak points, that the fire 
may take full effect. The Captain of the Lord s hosts is 
all-wise to direct, and all-powerful to execute. He will work, 
and who shall let it? Who art thou, oh great mountain? 
before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain ! And he shall 
bring forth the top stone with shoutings of grace, grace unto 

to promote the extension of thy blessed kingdom in this poor ruined 
world. Amen." 

jEt. 26-29.] "COMPEL THEM TO COME IN." 227 

it. Oh ! how glorious a sight to behold this town awakened 
from its deep sleep, and calling upon God with the whole 
heart! The waste cities shall be filled with flocks of men ! 
Be it unto us according to thy word. Amen. 

"Sabbath, 26th September. ... At five I went out to 
preach at the Spittal, as a man having no strength, yea, 

as a worm and no man, saying to Mr. S , I never was 

so low as this. If it were so that I were truly humbled, 
it would be different; but I am dead, and that is all. I could 
not fix upon a text; indeed, every door of hope seemed closed, 
and I knew that God, and he only, could grant deliverance. 
I found many already assembled, and in the course of a very 
short time the crowd became much greater than on any 
former day, and continued so, and even increasing to the 
end. I thought of preaching on 3eeing, therefore, that we 
have a great high-priest, &c. ; but when I opened the Bible 
after prayer, my eye rested on Revelations xx. 15, and this 
I fixed on, with dawnings of hope that the Lord would again 
speak by my unclean lips. I began from these sublime and 
awful words, And I saw a great white throne, and him that 
sat on it, &c., making some simple remarks on the throne 
its greatness, its whiteness, &c. After prayer, I resumed, and 
spoke a little with an increasing sense of the divine presence 
and power on the rising of the dead, our individual rising 
and appearing at the dread bar of judgment, &c. We then 
prayed again, and in doing so I felt more, perhaps, than 
since I came to Newcastle as if a direct communication 
were opened between my soul and the Divine Mind. My 
heart was truly drawn out and up to God for the advancement 
of Emmanuel s glory, even more than for the salvation of 
guilty worms, as a tor/-satisfying end. After this I got 
closer still to the people, and was enabled in a way quite 
new to me here, to open up the sins of the town, their defor 
mity, their dreadful working, and inconceivably awful issues 
in eternity. I also found myself in an agony to compel 
sinners to come to Jesus now, and not even the next hour, 

228 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1841-44- 

which I felt was not man s but God s. Indeed, I felt so 
much that I could almost have torn the pulpit to pieces, and 
the audience seemed to sympathize throughout. Oh ! it was 
a glorious, an awfully glorious scene ! The fleecy clouds were 
showing here and there bright stars, and the harvest moon 
was diffusing a sombre peaceful light upon the quiet world 
around us. We dying, and yet immortal creatures were 
contemplating the eternity before us, looking to the appear 
ance of the Son of Man in the clouds, conceiving ourselves 
placed at his bar, wondering and thinking what would be 
our sentence, and whether we would rise with him to heaven, 
or be drawn from him into hell ; some were, I hope, opening 
their eyes to their awful destiny as sinners, and on the very 
point of seeking refuge > for eternity from the wrath of God 
in the cleft Rock of Ages. I trust that some were saved, 
I have no doubt that God was with us of a truth. At a 
quarter to nine we closed ; and as we had remained so long 
in the open air, I thought it better not to meet in the church 
as we intended, but to retire direct to our closets. After 
I had been a few minutes in the house, two friends came 
to me from the church, and told me that it was nearly full 
with a congregation entirely different from what I had had 
in the open air, and that they had been waiting for me since 
seven o clock. I had again, accordingly, to go out in the 
Lord s name, and I spoke on the same as in the open air, 
though by no means with the same consciousness of the divine 
presence. We came out after a solemn meeting at a quarter 
to ten." 

After visiting several other places in the north of 
England, and among others Sunderland, where he preached 
"to a dense and hungry audience, who seemed to open 
the mouth wide for the blessing," he returned to Scotland, 
in order to take the temporary charge of the congregation 
of St. Luke s, Edinburgh, in the absence of his valued 


friend Mr. Moody Stuart. Of his labours here I am 
happy to be able to present the following graphic account 
from the pen of a friend to whom I have been already 
indebted, and who then watched his footsteps with deep 
and sympathetic interest: 

"In the winter of 1841-2 Mr. Burns supplied the 
pulpit of St. Luke s, Edinburgh. Mr. Moody Stuart, 
owing to an affection of the voice, had been advised to 
spend the winter in Madeira, and Mr. Burns was requested 
to take his place. He began his work in Edinburgh on 
the 1 4th November, preaching in the forenoon from 2 Co. 
iv. 1-6 ; and Dr. Bruce of St. Andrew s Church (of whom 
he always spoke with filial affection) in the afternoon. 

"The work of this winter forms a unique chapter in his 
life. A special interest attaches to it. He had to be 
come both pastor and evangelist. True to the motto of 
his family, "Ever ready," he soon showed that he could 
be both. He at once began a course of lectures on the 
Sabbath forenoon upon the Epistle to the Romans, and 
another course at the Thursday prayer-meeting upon the 
Epistle of James. On Monday evening he taught two 
classes : a female class for expounding the miracles, and 
a young men s class at a later hour, where he took up the 
parables of Christ. Every Saturday afternoon he con 
ducted a class for children. Two courses of lectures 
three classes sermons upon the Sabbath afternoon sug 
gested by the special circumstances of the times or of the 
congregation: here was sufficient work for an ordinary 
man. But he was no ordinary man. He was always 
longing to be on full work again. The college session 

230 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1841-44- 

had begun. He taught a private Greek class in his 
lodgings. 1 The College Missionary Association met every 
Saturday morning for prayer and the reading of essays 
upon topics connected with foreign missions. He at 
tended these meetings, and by the blessing of God infused 
his own fire into the hearts of many of the students. 
At the concluding general meeting of the Association, 
when about two hundred students were present, he moved 
one of the resolutions, and it was the universal impression 
that there never had been such a meeting in the college 

"A large number of students attended his ministry 
not only divinity students, but gownsmen of all stages 
with their pale eager faces. Memory recalls such names 
as Alexander James Campbell, John Donaldson, John 
Craven, Alexander Thain, Frederick Sandeman, Robert 
Ireland, Robert Taylor, Duncan Maclaren, M. Macgregor, 2 
Walter Davidson, Donald Sutherland, Patrick Neill, 
William Balfour, Neil Macleod, A. Luke, Thomas Gar 
diner, Thomas Just, &c. He invited them to his lodg 
ings; he sympathized with their difficulties; he guided 
those who were groping in the dark and seeking the way 
to Zion. Those who had the rare privilege of meeting 
him in private, and seeing his close walk with God, were 
at no loss to understand the power which attended his 
public ministrations. 

1 During the winter of 1844 he also taught a Hebrew class in the 
New College, for the benefit of the pupils of his revered friend, Dr. 

2 Late minister of the Free Church, Gartly. 


"With him the winning of souls was a passion; calm, but 
intense, consuming. As Foster has said of John Howard, 
It was the calmness of an intensity kept uniform by the 
nature of the human mind forbidding it to be more, and 
by the character of the man forbidding it to be less. He 
cast his net into all waters. He wished to get access to 
the soldiers in the castle. He visited the barracks, dis 
tributed tracts, and invited them to his open-air services 
in the High Street. He frequently visited the Shelter, 
the jail, the bridewell, the Magdalene Asylum, the Orphan 
Hospital, the Dean Bank Institution, &c., and preached 
to the inmates. Wherever the lost or neglected were to 
be found he was there; like Him who yearned over a 
world plunged in sin, telling them of rest for the weary 
and hope for the guilty. From the very refuse of society 
he gathered jewels for Emmanuel s crown. Very touch 
ing to see him, as I have done, giving tracts and speaking 
tender words to the fallen. To him they were lost pieces 
of silver; and the thought that they might even yet have 
Christ for their brother, and heaven for their home, filled 
him with a tenderness which he had no name for. 

"In the midst of his abundant labours in Edinburgh, the 
Lord opened a wide door for him in Leith. From January 
to March he preached on Wednesday and frequently on 
Sabbath evening in North Leith, South Leith, and the 
Mariners Church, to densely crowded and (to use a 
favourite word of his own) hungry audiences. The 
weather was severe keen frost and snow but the in 
terest swelled and spread until the attendance even on 
the Wednesday evening was overflowing, and so deep 

232 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1841-44. 

was the impression that the people could not go away 
after the blessing. An after-service for prayer and direct 
ing anxious inquirers had to be held; and such was their 
distress that they had to be removed to the vestry, where 
he sought to give them the oil of joy for mourning. 
Mr. M Cheyne took part in one of these services, and 
spoke and prayed with the anxious. It seemed as if the 
ever-memorable scenes of Kilsyth, Dundee, and Perth 
were to be repeated in Leith. So wide-spread was the 
impression, that a gay lady in Leith said the people were 
all going mad. In his young communicants class he 
soon gathered in abundant fruits of his labours in Leith 
sheaves of joy. To use his own words, "The Lord gave 
him spring, summer, and harvest, that winter in Leith." 
About the middle of March, in consequence of the resolu 
tion of the directors of the Edinburgh and Glasgow 
Railway to run trains upon the Sabbath, he bade the 
people of Leith farewell for a season, in order that he 
might give his whole heart to the work in Edinburgh. 

"One memorable incident which belongs to his work in 
Leith I must not omit. He wished to get access to the 
sailors. One Sabbath afternoon Dr. Gordon agreed to 
take his place in St. Luke s, and he ran down to preach 
on the quay at Leith, taking two or three of us with him 
to distribute tracts and invite the sailors. It was on the 
2d January, 1842. He stood half-way between the upper 
and lower bridges. I was never more struck with his 

tact and fertility of resource. A large crowd assembled a 

sea of bronzed faces. After reading his text Ecclesiastes 
viii. ii : Because sentence against an evil work/ &c. 

jEt. 26-29.] THE LEITH SAILORS. 233 

it began to rain heavily. He paused, and prayed that 
God would restrain the clouds that the people might hear 
the word. The rain continued, however, and we ad 
journed to a large shed at the head of the quay. He 
resumed, and the rain ceased. I shall never forget the 
look of wonder with which that crowd gazed on the clear 
sky. They plainly felt that there is something deeper in 
prayer than is dreamed of in human philosophy. The 
preacher spoke as if he had spent his life before the mast : 
his skilful use of sea-phrases gave rare zest to his discourse 
and, rising to a climax, he cried, Sailors ! the breakers 
are ahead ! the storm is rising ! you are running upon a 
lee-shore! in a few moments the ship (the world) will 
strike and go down ! The life-boat is Christ ! It is lying 
alongside it is ready to move oft"! Come away, sailors, 
come away, or it will be too late ! 

"It was on Sabbath the 13* of March that the first 
Sabbath train was run between Edinburgh and Glasgow. 
Mr. Burns spirit was stirred to its depths in connection 
with this question. His zeal for God and his love for his 
country were as a burning fire shut up in his bones. 
He regarded the Sabbath as the palladium of Scottish 
Christianity. In name of the session of St. Luke s he 
wrote a remonstrance to the shareholders, setting forth 
the fearful iniquity of trampling upon the sacred day, 
and the awful judgments which it must inevitably bring 
down upon the land. He attended the two great meet 
ings held in the Hopetoun Rooms and in the West 
Church by the friends of the Sabbath to oppose the open 
ing of the railway; and spoke with great thankfulness of 

234 LIFE OF REV - WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1841-44- 

the powerful speeches of Drs. Cunningham, Candlish, and 
C. J. Brown, and Messrs D. T. K. Drummond and 
Makgill Crichton, in favour of the entire sanctification of 
the Lord s-day. He preached for several Sabbaths upon 
the subject, and discussed it in all its aspects; he prayed 
with even more than his wonted fervour, that He who saith 
to the sea, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further, 
and here shall thy proud waves be stayed, would arrest 
the advancing tide of Sabbath desecration: and he inti 
mated that he would preach at the railway-station every 
Sabbath at seven in the morning and at six in the evening 
the hours at which the trains were advertised to start. 

"True to his word, he was at the railway-station at seven 
o clock on the following Sabbath morning. He spoke of 
it as a momentous day in the history of Scotland. A 
great crowd assembled, and joined with deep solemnity 
in the service. It was after nine before they dispersed, 
some of them in tears. He conducted the ordinary 
services in St. Luke s, at eleven and two, with unusual 
tenderness and power, as if the morning service had only 
put a keener edge upon his spirit; and was at the railway- 
station again at six, surrounded by a dense concourse of 
several thousands. The station was then at the Hay- 
market, in the outskirts of Edinburgh, and as the bruit 
spread, the people poured out to hear this extraordinary 
man, as they once did to hear the Baptist in the wilder 
ness, v Like a soldier mounting the breach, or leading a 
forlorn hope, he stood upon a large stone, and sang the 

Horror took hold on me, because 
111 men thy law forsake, c., 


and preached one of his most characteristic sermons to 
a deeply impressed audience. He continued till nine 
o clock in the evening, having been about nine hours 
engaged altogether. For the next three months his usual 
Sabbath work was four services two at the railway-station 
and two in St. Luke s. He was often engaged for eight 
or nine hours he often had to raise his voice so as to be 
heard by thousands; and yet he used to say that he was 
as fresh on Monday as on Saturday. He was a wonder 
to many. Like Ezekiel, he was set for a sign. His 
brethren in Edinburgh were full of joy at his lion-like 
courage and noble testimony; and only wished that they 
had bodily strength to stand by his side. As he himself 
said, Even if no good was done to souls by these 
services, the lifting up of a bold testimony for the Lord s- 
day in the hearing of thousands, and in the face of the 
world, was a work worth living and dying for. 

"So grave did he consider the crisis to be that he 
resolved to hold meetings for prayer every Monday, 
Wednesday, and Friday at noon to preach in the open- 
air at other points and to turn his female class into an 
evangelistic service in the church. It is not easy even to 
recount his labours from this date. And instead of being 
worried or hackneyed, his soul, like Gideon s fleece, was 
drenched with dew, and his preaching was never marked 
by greater depth, variety, and freshness. It was the 
culminating point of his work in Edinburgh. The church 
was overflowing. The word was sharper than a two- 
edged sword. There was a Bethel-like fear over the 
congregation. Every head was bowed. It was felt that 

236 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1841-44. 

the living God was in the place. Some who had enter 
tained prejudices against the preacher were ashamed 
when they found that solidity and impressiveness were 
the leading characteristics of his teaching. At the spring 
communion two hundred joined from other congregations. 
In his young communicants classes he met continually 
with deeply interesting cases of persons recently awakened, 
and heard of others. At the close of a Monday prayer- 
meeting some remained behind, who seemed to be under 
a divine convincing work ; and as they went away, one 
of the elders said with sparkling eyes, That s the Lord s 
work beginning. And so it was. The day alone will 
declare the fruits of that winter s work. If the Spirit did 
not come down as a rushing mighty wind, yet the promise 
was fulfilled in abundant measure, I will be as the dew 
unto Israel. What the old chronicler said of the effects 
of Richard Cameron s preaching, might be said of Mr. 
Burns preaching on not a few of those Sabbaths in St. 
Luke s: The people fell into a state of calm weeping. 

"I have said nothing of his Sabbath-evening services in 
the Queen s Park, or of the solemn meetings he addressed 
at the end of the old Tolbooth Church in the High Street, 
where there were manifest tokens of the divine presence, 
and where beyond doubt fruit was gathered unto life 
eternal. I have said nothing of his quick eye in seizing 
opportunities of dropping a word in season, in the house 
and in the street, on coach or track-boat, to any one whom 
the thousand eddies and swirls of daily life threw in his 
way. I have said nothing of four evangelistic tours which 
he made in the midst of his Edinburgh work one in 


April, 1842, to Milnathort, Bridge of Earn, Perth, Burrel- 
ton, Collace, Abernyte, Dundee; another in June, to 
Dundee, Kilspindie, Anstruther, Logic, Cupar-Fife, and 
Falkland; and two in August and September to the High 
lands of Perthshire. One recalls it with amazement. Here 
was a man who crowded the work of years into months 
of months into weeks of weeks into days. The work of 
many a lifetime was compressed into this single winter in 
Edinburgh. He often spoke as if he had a presentiment 
that his exhausting labours would soon wear out the 
earthly tabernacle, and he hasted to do the work of Him 
that sent him. 

"My space is done, else I could give fragments of his 
Meditations which I still vividly remember morsels of 
living bread which the Master had blessed and broken. 
In digging in the field of the Word he threw up now and 
again great nuggets, which formed part of one s spiritual 
wealth ever after. A mind of keen insight and power he 
was given to study subjects rather than texts, so that if 
he studied one text he sometimes preached from another 
and always longing to resume those habits of close and 
consecutive study which he pursued until he was carried 
away by the tide. He was a great puzzle to students 
his work, his circumstances, and his methods were so ex 
ceptional; but those who were so minded could learn 
from him the greatest lesson of all for the work of the 
ministry the omnipotence of faith and prayer. 

" For reasons which I suppress, I had the privilege of 
seeing him often in private generally twice a week. 
Little notes, too, he used to send me; and although I 

238 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1841-44- 

have lost them, their contents are written as if in star- 
fire on my heart. Here is one. He had asked me to 
breakfast, but was unexpectedly called from home. He 
left a note expressing his regret, and adding, We are 
often disappointed in our meetings with man, but never 
in our meetings with God at a throne of grace, where 
we are ever welcome in the blood of Jesus. In another, 
written from Dublin, he says May the Lord carry on 
his own great work within and around us, and may we be 
enabled to glorify him in life and in death ! The very 
last words, I think, I ever heard from him standing at 
his father s door one night in 1854, under cold November 
skies were, We must run! " 

Allusion has been made to those rapid excursions to 
other fields which occasionally interrupted the more even 
tenor of his labours at St. Luke s. Of the incessant and 
exhausting toil which such excursions involved no one 
acquainted only with the ordinary scenes of evangelistic 
work can easily form a conception. A single specimen, 
therefore, we must give, and we do so all the more 
readily that it will carry us back for a moment amid 
the scenes of his former labours in Breadalbane and 
Strathtay: "To one with an exact knowledge of the 
geography of Perthshire," says the same eye-witness, to 
whom I am indebted for the above notices, "his labours 
during the week from Sabbath the i4th August, 1842, to 
Sabbath the 2ist inclusive, furnish one of the most 
extraordinary episodes even in his life. There were no 
railroads then in Perthshire, but he had an interesting 
fellow-labourer in the shape of a fine fast trotter, as worthy 

yEt. 26-29.] A WEEK S WORK IN STRATHTAY. 239 

of the name of Church Extension as Mr. M Cheyne s 
pony. He was a famous rider, and sat his horse like a 
knight. On Sabbath the i4th he preached at Blair- Athole 
(i) for five hours in the churchyard to an assembly of at 
least 4000 persons, and (2) in the evening in the church 
for three hours to an audience that would have remained 
till daybreak. On Monday evening he rode to Moulin, 
and preached (3) to a deeply affected audience. On 
Tuesday he rode to Kinloch-Rannoch (20 miles), and 
preached (4) in a park at the south end of the bridge, 
from two to five o clock, to an interesting congregation 
of shepherds, gamekeepers, foresters, graziers, cattle- 
dealers, &c., gathered from both sides of Loch Rannoch. 
After a hurried dinner he struck across the west shoulder 
of Schiehallion, one of the most trackless and difficult 
passes in the Highlands taking a guide part of the way, 
to Fortingall (18 miles); rode six miles farther to Lawers, 
crossed Loch Tay to Ardeonaig preached (5) there on 
Wednesday at twelve, and recrossing the lake preached 
(6) at Lawers the same evening. On Thursday he rode 
down to Grandtully (17 miles), and (7) preached with 
great power in the churchyard to a dense crowd from 
Hebrews xii. 18-25. On Friday he rode up to Fortingall 
(12 miles), where he preached (8) in the open air from 
two to nearly six p.m., a sermon (Hebrews ix. 27, 28), 
which made a deep impression, many of the audience 
being in tears; and returned to Grandtully the same 
evening. On Saturday morning he started at six for 
Balnaguard, preached (9) there at seven o clock to a large 
company, many of whom had got saving good under his 


ministry previously caught the mail-cart at half-past 
eight, reached Edinburgh in the evening, and preached 
thrice (10, n, 12) in St. Luke s on the following day. 

"The congregation at Blair- A thole on the i4th," 
continues our informant, "was a most imposing sight. 
Most of them were men, and the ground being a dead 
level, and inconvenient for sitting, most of them stood. 
The thirst to hear was so intense, and the blessing which 
had crowned his previous visits so wide-spread, that 
almost the whole population, not only from the vale 
of Athole, but from Straloch, Strathardle, Kirkmichael, 
Glenerochy, Dalnacardoch, Foss, Glenfincastle, Strathtay, 
and Strath-tummel, flocked to hear the great preacher 
of repentance. As he read the opening Psalm. Ps xxii. 

All ends of th earth remember shall, 
And turn the Lord unto, &c., 

and during the first prayer, you felt as if the light of the 
other world struck on his face. His text was John xviii. 
n, The cup which my Father, &c. : and as he proceeded 
to explain the emblem, the cup, he said, Wine is the 
strength or essence of the grape. God s wrath is his 
whole being as directed against sin. He looks upon sin as 
infinitely base and vile, and therefore he is indignant : and 
the wine of his holy anger is poured out in all its strength 
into the cup of his indignation. This wine was not 
diluted when the cup was put into the hand of the Son of 
God. Look at the anguish sin has wrought. The tears 
of mankind have never ceased to flow since it entered the 
world. No sooner do they dry on one cheek than they 

jEt. 26-29.] "THE DISRUPTION." 241 

begin to run down the other: no sooner does one widow 
lay aside her weeds, than another begins the wail : and yet 
one diluted drop of God s wrath has done it all. What 
anguish, then, must have been in the cup which the 
Father gave his Son to drink ! Words like these cut deep 
into many a heart that day. I saw a white-haired old 
man in the gate weeping bitterly, and saying, Oh! it s 
his prayers: I canna stand his prayers! 

"Those who could hardly speak a word of English 
understood him. An old person who literally did not 
know one word, and always sat on the pulpit stair when 
he preached, was asked, what was the use of her hearing 
Mr. Burns? Oh, she replied, I can understand the 
Holy Ghost s English!" 

Between the scenes now described and those to which 
we have next to refer, great and startling events had taken 
place. The ancient and venerable Church of Scotland, 
of which Mr. Burns had been an attached and faithful 
member, had been broken in pieces, and from its ruins 
had arisen a new and powerful society with which a large 
proportion of her most devoted sons had cast in their lot. 
With the movement which led to that remarkable revolu 
tion, and with the principles which lay at the foundation 
of it, he most thoroughly sympathized; and when the 
critical day of exodus arrived we find him hurrying away 
from the busy scenes of his evangelistic work in Fife, that 
he might witness that signal and illustrious act of faith, 
and share the inspiration and the triumph of that solemn 
hour: "Tuesday," he writes in his journal, "to Edin 
burgh per steam through a great storm on the way to the 


242 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1841-44- 

Assembly. Thursday, I was honoured to join in the 
solemn procession of ministers, &c., from St. Andrew s 
Church to the Free Assembly Hall, Canonmills, walk 
ing between my father on the one side and Uncle George 
of Tweedsmuir on the other. This was a scene of which 
I know not what to say! The opening of the Free 
Assembly was graciously solemn. Surely the Lord was 
there." But the scenes which immediately after fol 
lowed, though deeply important and spirit-stirring, were 
not perhaps peculiarly favourable to the quiet prosecution 
of his special work. The country was all astir and filled 
with the din of ecclesiastical reconstruction and organiza 
tion, and though this enthusiasm of church life and church 
work was itself of most wholesome influence on the 
general interests of religion in the country, and indeed, 
as it is believed, lent an impulse to the spiritual life of 
many, never to be forgotten, it was scarcely in unison with 
the peculiar mission of one whose one exclusive theme 
was that of repentance and the second birth. While 
therefore he still unweariedly prosecuted his appointed 
work wherever the divine Master seemed to point the 
way, he yet felt that the auspicious season for such work 
had in a great measure, at least for the present, passed. It 
was a time not so much for the awakening of life, as for 
the exercising and turning to good account of the life 
already awakened a birth-time rather for the collective 
church than for individual souls. There was, indeed, 
abundant and most momentous work to be done, but 
work not precisely of that kind for which he felt himself 
especially fitted, and to which he believed himself to have 

JEt. a6.-29.] LABOURS IN DUBLIN. 243 

been by the irresistible call of God specially devoted. It 
was his part not to rear, or even materially to assist in 
rearing, the outward fabric of the house of God, but to 
help by God s grace in gathering the living stones of 
which it was to be reared. He was the more willing 
accordingly to listen to calls which were coming to him, 
with increasing frequency and urgency, from fields that 
lay beyond the sphere of the existing movement, and 
among these from Dublin, where he found himself on 
Saturday, April 6th, 1844, under the hospitable roof of his 
valued friend the Rev. Dr. Kirkpatrick, one of the 
ministers of Mary s Abbey Church. The following graphic 
and deeply interesting narrative, for which I am indebted 
to his kind host, will give some idea of the nature of his 
labours, and his manner of life in this new and untried 

"I had seen your brother in Perth, and had invited 
him to my house in Dublin. He accepted my invitation ; 
and after he had finished his immediate engagements in 
Scotland he suddenly appeared at my door, with a small 
bundle in his hand, containing the whole of his travelling 
apparatus. His principal object in coming to Dublin 
was to find opportunities, if possible, of making known 
to Roman Catholics the message of the gospel. Accord 
ingly, he selected as the place of his public labours a 
suitable piece of ground in front of the custom-house; 
a place in which Father Matthew had administered the 
temperance pledge, and where he could address his 
audience without obstructing the ordinary thoroughfare. 
This area was surrounded by a low chain fence, inside of 

244 LIFE OF REV> WILLIAM C - BURNS. [1841-44- 

which he stood on a chair, and spoke to the people, who 
occupied the space between him and the building. Here 
he took his position evening after evening, and amidst 
innumerable annoyances and interruptions he sought to 
bring before his ignorant and prejudiced hearers the 
word of eternal life. It requires no small amount of 
courage, and tact, and temper, as every one knows who 
has made the trial, to address an unsympathizing or hostile 
Irish mob. Mr. Burns was exposed to many opprobrious 
salutations, derisive questionings, vehement denials of the 
statements which he made; sometimes the uproar was so 
loud and long- continued that he was obliged to desist 
altogether; often his clothes were torn; not seldom the 
chair on which he stood was broken; but he never 
was impatient, nor ever for a moment lost his self-com 
mand. Amidst the most noisy and turbulent scenes, his 
countenance was beaming with joy, insomuch that some 
of his persecutors were constrained to say, He is a good 
man; we cannot make him angry. The ringleaders of 
the mob occasionally joined hands, and rushed down 
upon him for the purpose of driving him from the chair, 
or of throwing him down upon the street; but he was 
always protected from the danger of these assaults by a 
body-guard of three young men, members of my congre 
gation, who were never absent from these meetings; and 
who, standing behind him, caught him in their arms till the 
wave had passed by and spent its force; and then, having 
set him on the chair again, he proceeded in his address 
with as much quietude of manner as if no interruption 
had taken place. The questions interjected by the crowd 

;t. 26-29.] AN IRISH CROWD. 245 

from time to time, while he was perhaps in the middle of 
a sentence, were sufficient to perplex a speaker of less 
experience and of less self-control than Mr. Burns. Let 
me give some specimens of the style of interrogation to 
which he was subjected in the course of his addresses: 
What book is that which you hold in your hands? It 
is the Word of God. How do you know? can you 
prove that it is the Word of God? I shall prove that 
it is if you deny it; but if we both of us admit it to be 
from God, why need I stop to prove it? What is your 
commission? I shall read it to you, my friends, Let 
him that heareth say, Come. Eleven years have now 
passed since I heard the Lord speaking to my heart, and 
saying Come, and ever since I have been saying Come 
to as many sinners as were willing to listen to me. You 
may go, we don t want you here. My friends, it is to 
those who don t want me that I am always most anxious 
to go j for I find that they are the people who have most 
need of me. Bravo! shouted some one in the crowd, 
pleased with the readiness and appropriateness of the reply. 
From what country do you come? From Scotland. 
Have you no sinners there? Yes. Have you not 
much drunkenness in Scotland? Yes, a good deal. 
Why did you not stay at home to convert the drunkards 
before you came over to teach us? For this reason, 
in Scotland the drunkards know that they are sinners, 
and do not attempt to justify themselves in their sins. 
But here I see people who curse, and drink, and tell lies, 
who say, nevertheless, that theirs is the true religion. 
Now these people must be labouring under a great mistake, 

246 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1841-44. 

and I have come to set them right in this matter. But 
our church is the true church, and we have our priests to 
teach us and to keep us right. My friends, your saying 
that you are members of the true church does not prove 
that you really belong to it. Let me read you a passage 
from the Word of God. John viii. 39, 44: They an 
swered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus 
said unto them, If ye were Abraham s children, ye would 
do the works of Abraham. Ye are of your father the 
devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. This passage 
fell upon them like a thunderbolt, and silenced them for 
a season, while the speaker in the meantime pursued his 
address. The scenes described in the Gospels under the 
preaching of the word were thus vividly illustrated, and 
to some extent re-enacted, under the ministry of Mr. 

"On one occasion he proposed to vary the commence 
ment of his open-air service by the singing of a psalm. 
I endeavoured to dissuade him from his purpose, by 
representing to him, that as his audience knew nothing 
of our metrical psalms, nor of our psalmody, his attempt 
to sing would serve but to increase and embitter the spirit 
of opposition. He was anxious, however, to make the 
experiment, and announced the 62d Psalm. After read 
ing a portion of the psalm, he commenced to sing the 
5th verse, 

My soul, wait thou with patience 
Upon thy God alone. 

The crowd, taken by surprise, listened to the first line in 
mute astonishment; then burst into a laugh of derision; 

;Et. 26-29.] "HE HAD NEVER KNOWN FEAR." 247 

then forming themselves into a compact phalanx, they 
rushed down upon Mr. Burns just as he had completed 
the first two words of the second line. The three friends, 
who were ever near, drew him aside till the crowd swept 
by, and after a considerable interval placed him once 
more upon the chair; and he then with his usual compo 
sure resumed the tune at the part of the line, thy God 
alone, which he had reached before he was interrupted. 

"One evening, when he was obliged to stop short in his 
discourse in consequence of his chair being broken, he 
went down along the quay on the other side of the river, 
for the purpose of addressing himself to the coal-porters. 
It was in vain that his friends represented the danger to 
which he would be inevitably exposed; he replied, that 
he had never known fear. His courage was soon put to 
the test. Whenever he commenced to speak, an angry 
mob quickly assembled, and loud and threatening shouts 
drowned all his efforts to be heard. The police came to 
his assistance, and kindly but firmly required him to 
cease. Still he was unwilling to give up the attempt, but 
after several ineffectual efforts, the mob becoming larger 
and more ferocious, the police peremptorily insisted that 
he should be silent and cross the river in the ferry-boat, 
1 for if you attempt to go back along the quay, they said, 
we will not be answerable for your life. But I cannot 
pay for the ferry-boat. It will cost you only a halfpenny. 
But I have no halfpenny, 1 he replied. Here is one for 

1 See note, page 225 ; also, a touching incident in his journal of 
date October nth, 1847 (Chapter xii.), illustrating how literally he 
carried with him "neither purse nor scrip," &c. It might be said 

243 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1841-44. 

you, said a good-natured policeman. Accordingly Mr. 
Burns stepped down into the boat, and holding up the 
halfpenny, he cried out to the people on shore, See this, 
my friends, I have got a free passage. In like manner 
you may have a free gospel, a free forgiveness of all your 
sins, a free passage to the kingdom of heaven. Without 
money, and without price. And thus he proceeded to 
deliver a message to the persons who were crossing with 
him in the boat. 

" It is not to be concluded from these details, that his 
labours in this arduous field were wholly unsuccessful. 
One Sabbath morning; his audience at the custom-house 
were more quiet than usual. His subject was regeneration, 
Except a man be born again, &c. At the close of his 
sermon a man who had been listening attentively said, 
Well, sir, if what you have said be true, you had much 
need to come from Scotland to tell it to us, for we never 
heard of this doctrine before. After Mr. Burns left 
Dublin, several Roman Catholics came to inquire about 
him, speaking respectfully of his labours, and of the loving 
and genial spirit in which they were conducted. 

"During his stay in Dublin we had prayer-meetings in 
the church of Mary s Abbey almost every day. The 
prayers of Mr. Burns were very striking distinguished 
by deep acquaintance with Scripture, by intense fervour, 

of him, with absolute truth, during this period, in which, in the 
matter of temporal provision, he so simply walked by faith, that 
"when he had gathered much he had nothing over, and when he had 
gathered least he had no lack." He had never too much for him 
self and for the poor, and never too little for himself. 


and by strong faith. He truly pleaded with God, and 
occasionally seemed to get near access to his presence. 
But his addresses to our Presbyterian people failed to 
produce much visible impression. His failure in this 
respect disappointed and grieved me very much. The 
congregation looked forward to his promised visit with 
much interest; having been largely informed of the won 
derful success which God had vouchsafed to him in many 
districts of Scotland, they expected to hear from him a 
fuller exposition, and a more specific application of 
scriptural truth, than he was wont to give ; and they were 
somewhat dissatisfied to observe that his discourses ap 
peared to be wholly extemporaneous. I tried to induce 
him to give some time to special preparation, but without 
success, and regarding his course of procedure as beyond 
the range of ordinary men, I forbore to press my objec 
tions. I continued, however, to think that he was mis 
taken in expecting that his word would be with power 
when he did not beforehand consider how to divide and 
to apply it; and that he was also mistaken in attributing 
his want of success, as he was at that time accustomed to 
do, solely and exclusively to the hardness of the hearts 
of the people. His views on these points, I think I 
have since learned, subsequently underwent considerable 
change; and I am sure that he was prepared to adopt 
any means which appeared to him most directly and 
effectively to bear on the advancement of the kingdom of 
God. This great object alone engrossed him. Political 
or even ecclesiastical affairs had no attraction for him. 
He was bent earnestly and ever on the salvation of souls. 

250 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1841-44. 

This grand concern occupied and absorbed his daily 
prayers, his social converse, his public addresses, the 
whole course of his thoughts, the whole business of his 
life. Why are there not more of us like him? The need 
of such men is as urgent as ever; and we know that the 
grace of God is not less rich, nor his promises in Christ 
less sure, nor his gifts less varied or less rich. Lord, we 
believe, help thou our unbelief. " 

The following brief snatch of reminiscence by a 
respected minister of the Free Church of Scotland, 1 gives 
another vivid touch to the picture, and affords a pregnant 
hint as to the unseen results of those despised and self- 
denying labours: 

"I only saw him once in Dublin. I was then a student 
in Trinity College, and I remember well, passing along by 
the custom-house I came upon a crowd, which as I drew 
near appeared greatly excited. I stopped to listen, and 
I found that William Burns (as I afterwards came to 
know) was addressing them. I think I see him still : with 
what a strange calmness he spoke ! with what meekness 
he met all their taunts ! He was hooted, pelted, insulted, 
but quite unmoved he held open his Bible, and answered 
every onset by saying, But hear me, hear what God says 
to us in his blessed Word. I remember he was speaking 
from John x. concerning the good Shepherd and the door 
of the sheepfold. At times the crowd were quieted down 
to listen, and one at least of the hearers walked away, 
forgetting for the time Greek iambics and mathematical 
deductions, but filled with the thought, That stranger has 

1 The Rev. H. M. Williamson, Free High Church, Aberdeen. 

JEt. 26-29.] UNSEEN RESULTS. 251 

a peace and a life of which I know nothing. Next time 
we met was at the Duchess of Gordon s, Huntly Lodge,, 
on his return on a visit from China; and I have never for 
gotten that happy season, or his last words, as, entering 
the railway-carriage, he said, Now for China ! " 

One or two characteristic extracts from his own journal 
will carry us still deeper into the heart of the combat and 
of the combatant. 

"^4/34 Wellington Street, Dublin, Rev. W. B. Kirkpatrictts. 
Monday, April %>th. . . . On Saturday, after being here 
an hour or two, I thought of going to preach in the open air, 
but on going through the streets thought it better to wait a 
little until my way should open more gradually. Yesterday 
I preached for Mr. Kirkpatrick at twelve, on Go ye into 
all the world/ &c., and in the evening in Adelaide Road 
Church, on John iii. : regeneration. I had assistance on both 
occasions, and in coming home at night spoke to numbers. 
I found them a very engaging people, very open and frank, 
and accessible to kindness. O that Jesus may be glorified 
among them ! . . . This evening I felt the hand of the 
Lord laid upon me so powerfully that I could not but go 
forth to attempt entering fairly on his work. I went down 
to the quay to look out for a suitable place to preach, and 
having found one I tried to begin, urged by his word, Preach 
the word/ &c. The enmity which even the attempt to open 
my mouth provoked showed what I may look for if I do the 
Lord s will. When I asked some sailors if they would attend 
they seemed disposed, but shrunk away, saying, This is a 
bad part of the world, for there are too many on the 
other side of the house. In coming away to the meeting 
in the chapel I asked the Lord to direct me to some true 
child of God not a minister who might go with me when 
I next attempt this work, and as soon as I got to the church 
I was introduced to one of the elders, who seems the very 

252 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1841-44- 

person. After the meeting, again I met with another, who 
seems equally desirable. The meeting was very sweet. I 
spoke a little on the account of Hagar and her son, Genesis 
xxi., prayed, and was followed by Mr. K. in prayer. He is 
a man of genuine piety and very considerable power. 

" Tuesday Evening. During this day my path has opened 
a little, or rather not a little, farther. During the former 
part of the day I wrote letters to Scotland. Was alone with 
the Lord, and also traversed the city that I might get a full 
view of its character, naturally and morally, which is always 
most easily done before you become known. I conversed 
with Mr. Drysdale, the elder to whom I alluded above as a 
man of God. . . I spent an hour with him in his work 
shop alone. He gave me an awful account of the difficulties 
of out-door preaching in Dublin ; but after much converse I 
felt that I must make the attempt. He would gladly have 
gone with me, but was engaged this evening at the great 
meeting in connection with the Presbyterian marriage ques 
tion, and thus I was left quite alone. However I went, look 
ing to the Lord, and took up my position on the open ground 
to the west of the custom-house, laid my hat on the ground, 
and standing a few paces from the footpath began to read, 
It is appointed unto men once to die/ &c. I had soon a 
large and most interesting assembly, but, as usual, the 
Romanists introduced their questions, and when the answers 
came too near them they began to make a rush with the view 
of putting me down. A police-officer also came and advised 
me to remove. I said I believed that I was trespassing no 
law that that was the ground where Father Matthew spoke 
and that I would not remove unless he had authority to 
stop me. He seemed to be a Romanist, and was evidently 
set on putting me down, so that after throwing the responsi 
bility on him, and telling the people where I would preach 
to-morrow, I came away with a disburdened conscience. 
Dear people ! they seemed intent on hearing, and followed 
me far on my way home despite of all I could do. ... 

ffit. 26-29.] DUBLIN JOURNAL. 253 

" Friday ; April \ith. Half-past one o clock this morning 
I awoke ynder a powerful assault of despondency and unbe 
lief tempted to say, Let me sit still and take things in the 
ordinary way. However, at worship, the fifth chapter of 
Hebrews, read by Mr. K., particularly the words, Be fol 
lowers of them who through faith and patience are now in 
heriting the promises/ quickened me again. We had some 
interesting conversation on the need of perseverance, and of 
in this taking a lesson from O Connell ; and at half-past nine 
I went down in the name of Jesus to the scene of last night s 
meeting. I asked one captain to give me his ship to preach 
in, but he refused. I was then standing in doubt to what 
ship to go to next when I saw some poor Romanists emi 
grants, I suppose on board another vessel, who seemed to 
know me, and were mocking. I asked them how they were 
so unwilling to hear the Word of God ; they said they loved 
it, but not from me that I could not preach it, &c. This 
opened the way. With all their confidence they mingled 
many oaths, which I told them certainly showed that they 
were not on the right way. A crowd gathered, and I had the 
best hour among them that I have had in Dublin. I was 
greatly aided in gaining their confidence. They threatened 
to throw me into the river at first, but I told them I did not 
mind that they treated my Master worse. One asked me 
for my commission ; I pointed to Let him that heareth say, 
Come. One said something vile; I said, You know that 
when you go to confession you must confess that as a sin. 
Another, hearing of confession, and thinking that I was 
speaking against it, said, What do you know about confes 
sion ? &c.; I said, Not much ; but I am saying no more than 
I know, and repeated what he had said. He was pleased. 
One said, You must be saved by prayer and fasting; 
I affirmed it, but showed the infinitely higher place of the 
blood of Jesus. One pressed me to prove that the Bible 
was the Word of God, wishing to bring me under church 
authority ; I said I would do so if he denied it, but that as 



we both admitted this, why should I prove it, and so we got 
to more practical and personal matters. I was so full of 
God s joy in all this that I could not but smile, or rather 
laugh, in speaking to them ; they wondered at this, and said, 
He is a good man, we cannot make him angry. I told them 
I would come back again at the dinner-hour and speak 
again ; and so we parted. This was a good beginning. At 
twelve we had a very good prayer-meeting; and all that 
seems needful is faith, and patience, and prayer. I am just 
about to return again to the field ; but ah ! I must go deeper 
this time, and be prepared for the worst that the enemy 
can devise or execute. They overcame him by the blood of 
the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; and they 
loved not their lives unto m the death. Oh ! to be enabled thus 
to fight and overcome ! 

"Evening. The public duty of the day is now over, and 
I have abundant cause to sing of mercy. At the dinner-hour 
I got a good many to hear, and had increasing assistance. 
In the evening I got free of all controversies, and spoke with 
divine relish on the love of God : God commendeth his love 
toward us, &c. We met with some opposition; among 
other things, some one threw a pailful of water at me from a 
ship s side, but it did not harm me. The impression was 
greater than before, and though the policeman who first put 
me down came near, he did not interfere. They are a very 
interesting people, and if I be faithful to the Lord s call I 
doubt not to see some or many of them obeying the gospel. 
It is now near to the end of my first week in Ireland, and I 
have indeed cause to thank the Lord that so soon I should 
be within sight of so full and blessed a work. 

"Saturday, April \-tfh.. . . This day I have kept 
as a day of rest, with the exception of having a prayer- 
meeting at twelve o clock, at which I read Isaiah xliii., and 
felt something of his presence. This day has been wet, so 
that I have had less unwillingness to defer my public engage 
ments until to-morrow. During the chief part of this evening 

Mt. 26-29.] RETURN TO SCOTLAND. 255 

I have been led to look afresh at the dark side of my pros 
pects, and so have felt as if nothing could be done; but again 
I am revived by God s own perfect words. I have just come 
to my room from family worship, where Hebrews vii. 18 to the 
end was read. I saw something of his glory as a priest, and 
had some nearness and fulness of heart in prayer, and have 
again a renewal of hope regarding this poor city. I found 
to-day also that hope and expectation is springing up in the 
hearts of some of God s children who at first despaired of 
anything being done. Last night I told those who disturbed 
us that I knew well that the tongue can no man tame ; it is 
an unruly evil, full of deadly poison/ but that we would 
specially pray for them, and that God would fulfil his word, 
He stilleth the tumult of the people/ They seemed struck 
at this ; I added, I will get you all very quiet yet before I 
leave you. Nothing gives one so great an opening as joy, and 
love, and peace ; and I find these poured into my heart when 
among these poor outcasts in an uncommon measure. Many 
of the emigrants who in the morning cursed me hung upon my 
lips in the evening. One poor woman said, Ah ! I see the 
tear of mercy in his eye. When they made any commotion 
I said, Now, the policeman will stop us ; and they became as 
quiet as the river beside us. ; 

He returned to Scotland on May loth, and after three 
months of evangelistic work, chiefly in Paisley, Port- 
Glasgow, Renfrew, and other neighbouring places, pro 
ceeded to the British dominions of North America, where 
we shall have in the next chapter to trace his footsteps. 




OUR North American colonies had something like a 
hereditary claim on the services of Mr. Burns. 
It has been the lot of two of his near relatives to be 
engaged for a series of* years in the service of the church 

1 This chapter was kindly prepared by the late Rev. Robert Burns, 
D.D., professor of theology in Knox s College, Toronto, than whom 
none knew the field of labour better, or had done more to ad 
vance the work of Christ throughout its length and breadth. It is 
given with only such revision as the revered author would himself 
have given to it had he been spared to impart to it his final touch. 
Besides him, and chiefly through him, I am indebted also to the 
following friends who have assisted in furnishing the materials on 
which the narrative is based, viz. Rev. Alexr. Cameron, of the Free 
Church, Ardersier, formerly of Canada; Mr. Hector Macpherson, 
lay missionary at St. Martin s, Perthshire, formerly band-major of 
the 93d Sutherland Highlanders; Rev. Daniel Clark, of Indian 
Lands, Glengarry, Canada ; Mr. Donald Catanach, of Lochiel, and 
his sister, Mrs. Kelly ; Rev. Alexr. N. Somerville, of Anderston 
Free Church, Glasgow ; Sergeant Long, formerly of the 93d, now 
of the Gymnasium, Glasgow ; Mr. James Hosack, merchant, 
Quebec; the Rev. John Clugston, formerly of that city, now of 
Stewarton; Mr. William Macintosh, now of Belleville, C.W. ; 
Rev. Farquhar M Rae of Knockbain; Mrs. M Nider, formerly of 
Montreal, now of Vincent Street, Edinburgh ; Messrs. James Court, 
John Dougal, Thos. Allan, James Orr, R. M Corkle, Montreal, and 

jEt. 29-31.] DEPARTURE FOR CANADA. 257 

in that important and thriving province of the British 
crown. His uncle, Dr. George Burns, of the Free 
Church at Corstorphine, was in 1817 called to be the 
first minister of the Church of Scotland in the city of St. 
John, New Brunswick, and, with a short interval, he 
laboured in that important sphere for the period of 
fourteen years; while another uncle, Dr. Robert Burns, 
formerly of Paisley, was for fifteen years secretary to the 
Glasgow Society for sending out Ministers and Teachers 
to the Colonies of British North America, and was him 
self for a quarter of a century employed, first as pastor, 
and afterwards as theological professor, at Toronto, in 
Canada West. The latter having arrived at Montreal in the 
spring of 1844 as one of the first deputies of the young, 
fresh, and already renowned Free Church of Scotland, 
the question was at once put to him, " Have you brought 
your nephew with you?" In fact, the revivals in Scot 
land were more spoken of in Canada than in Scotland 
itself, and the Free Church deputy carried home with him 
earnest commissions from the good people of Quebec, 
Montreal, Kingston, Toronto, and almost everywhere, for 
the presence and labours of Mr. Burns, and others of 
similar spirit. Written communications to the Colonial 
Committee at Edinburgh had also preceded him; and 
when he reached Scotland in June of that year, he found 
that the proposal to visit Canada had been made to Mr. 
Burns, and that proposal having been seconded by the full 
information now given him, all difficulties were removed, 
and in the course of a few weeks Mr. Burns embarked in 
the brig Mary for Montreal, a free passage to and from 

258 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1844-46. 

Canada having been guaranteed to him by the generous 
Christian proprietors of the vessel. Mr. Burns sailed 
from Greenock to Montreal on the roth August, 1844, 
and reached Montreal on Thursday, September 26th, of 
the same year. In this connection the names of Mr. 
James R. Orr, merchant in Montreal, and of Captain 
Kelso, the commander and proprietor of the vessel, 
deserve honourable mention. With the first of these 
gentlemen Mr. Burns stayed during the greater part of 
his residence in Montreal; and the names of both are 
associated with the first propitious dawning of the Free 
Church era in Canada. 

The following extracts from his journal will show the 
feelings with which he approached this new sphere of 
labour, and the spirit in which he entered on it : 

"In every circumstance, even to the least, I have seen 
infinite grace towards me on this occasion. The ship in 
which I am is an excellent one. As there is no cabin 
passenger but myself, I have the cabin as quiet as my 
own study could be, and a state-room in which to meet 
with God. The means provided for me by the Lord 
have so exactly met my wants, that I go forth truly 
without purse, having only two shillings remaining in 
the world; and yet I am infinitely rich, having nothing, 
and yet possessing all things. 1 I trust I shall be enabled 
not only to pray much, but also to study more deeply the 
divine word, and prepare more regularly for the profitable 
discharge of my awful trust. ... I have got some 
beginning made among the crew. To-night we had fine 
1 See note, p. 225. 

JEt. 29^31.] ARRIVAL AT QUEBEC. 259 

weather, and met on deck for worship. It was sweet and 
solemn, the voice of prayer and praise blending with the 
winds in the midst of the mighty deep. Oh that I may 
be prepared for glorifying God fully in my body and 
spirit, which are his ! " On another occasion he says : 
"To-day we have been becalmed, and I feel the retire 
ment sweet. I think I can say through grace that God s 
presence or absence alone distinguishes places to me. 
But ah ! I am yet untried. I know but little of what is 
in me as yet, and still less of the depth of his redeeming 
love. ... I have sometimes had glimpses both of the 
depth of sin and of redeeming love; still, I will need 
very special teaching if I am to be of use in the western 
world. . . . 

"September 2, 1844. This morning beautifully clear; 
a gentle north-east breeze, wafting us to our desired 
haven, brought us in sight of American land, after a 
delightful run of twenty-three days. . . . Our seasons 
of divine worship have been increasingly pleasant of late, 
although I see no mark of a divine work of grace in any 
one around me. Part of my daily work has been to teach 
the ship-boys to read. One of them is an interesting 
black from Africa. Oh that my heart were enlarged in 
pleading for the ingathering of all nations to Emmanuel ! " 

On September loth he reached Quebec, and in his 
journal we find the following characteristic notice : "In 
God s great mercy we arrived here yesterday, after a 
delightful passage of thirty-six days. As it was the day 
of holy rest, I did not go ashore, but had worship on 
board, and spoke on the twenty-second chapter of 

260 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1844-46. 

Revelation. In the evening I was put on shore, and 
after looking a little at the aspect of the town, I took up 
my position alone, and yet not alone, at the market-place, 
close to the river, and began to repeat the fifty-fifth of 
Isaiah. A crowd of Canadians and of British sailors soon 
gathered, who at first seemed mute with astonishment, 
but soon showed me that the offence of the cross had not 
ceased by their mocking and threatened violence. How 
ever, I got a good opportunity of witness-bearing for 
God and his Christ; and when I left them had some 
interesting conversation with some individuals who fol 
lowed me. When I came down again, at half-past eight, 
to the place where the ship s boat was to meet me, I 
got into conversation with a company of young sailors, 
two of whom remembered well having heard me at New 
castle at the quay and in the corn-market. Some of our 
poor soldiers and sailors were going about intoxicated. 
Though it were only to reach these two classes of degraded 
men, it would be to me a reward for crossing the great 
ocean. Who knoweth what may be the fruit of this 
evening s testimony among the wondering crowd ! . . . 
I have had on board the ship a time for solemn observa 
tion of the character and ways of the unconverted, which 
I trust will be profitable. The only book I have had 
with me beside the book of God is Owen on the Glory 
of Christ, which I find precious indeed. I have had 
some seasons of great nearness to the God and Father of 
our Lord Jesus Christ, and have found his word full of 
power and refreshment." 

On reaching Montreal he at once found himself in the 

JEt. 29-31.] NEW AND OLD FRIENDS. 261 

midst both of new and of old friends. The faces of the 
old soldiers whom he had known at Aberdeen and at 
Dundee must have been a sight peculiarly pleasant to 
him, and a happy omen for the future : 

" When we came into the harbour two Christian gentlemen, 
Mr. Orr and Mr. M Kay, came on board, and before leaving 
my little cabin we had sweet communion at the mercy-seat 
together. I live with Mr. and Mrs. Orr, a godly couple from 
Greenock, in a delightful situation at the head of the town. 
Truly goodness and mercy are heaped on me. . . . Be 
fore leaving Scotland I observed that the 93d Regiment, the 
depot of which I laboured among at Aberdeen in autumn, 
1840, had removed from Kingston to Montreal, and I trusted 
that somehow I might get in among them ; but what was my 
joy and wonder to be told that there were about thirty godly 
men among sergeants and privates who have a hired room 
near the barracks in which some of them teach a daily school 
for poor children gathered from the streets, as well as a Sab 
bath-school, and in which they meet for social prayer every 
Friday from six to half-past eight. This is the Sutherland 
regiment, of which in its early days the Rev. Ronald Bayne, 
an eminent man of God afterwards at Inverness, and then at 
Elgin was chaplain ; and that enjoyed until lately the com 
mand of Colonel M Gregor, a distinguished Christian officer, 
now at the head of the constabulary force of Dublin. . . . 
I had hardly arrived when I was told they were looking with 
desire to my coming, and that they wished me to attend their 
prayer-meeting, and to preach to them next Sabbath. I ac 
cordingly went last night, in company with two pious Scotch 
men. . . . When we got to the place I found such a 
scene as I never before saw : a room crowded with soldiers, 
wives, and children, who were met not to hear a man speak, 
but to wait upon Jehovah, as their custom was. It put me 
in mind of the centurion of old. I enjoyed the meeting ex 
ceedingly, speaking upon Moses at the burning bush. One 

262 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1844-46. 

of the soldiers prayed, as well as Mr. M Intosh and myself. 
In the soldier s prayer I was struck by the petition that they 
might cherish such expectations of good through my instru 
mentality as were warranted by his word, and were accord 
ing to his mind. They seemed all to feel too that nothing 
but the presence of God himself would be of any avail. I 
found it very affecting to them and me to allude to the church 
of our fathers in the furnace, and to the people of Ross and 
. Sutherland, from among whom the regiment was at first 
raised. . . . 

" Tuesday, September 24.^/1. Sabbath was a good day, suffi 
cient to remind me of September 22d, 1839, the day of the 
second communion at Kilsyth. At half-past nine A.M. I 
preached on the quay, OR the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, 
and his purging the temple congregation large and fixed. At 
eleven I preached in Mr. Wilks s church (Congregational) 
from the words, When the enemy shall come in like a flood, 
the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him. 
At half-past one P.M. I addressed the 93d Regiment in Mr. 
Esson s church very fixed in their attention more so than 
I have seen soldiers before. At seven I again preached in 
Mr. Esson s to a full church, on If any man will come after 
me/ &c., and was much aided. 

"Saturday, December i^th. During the present week my 
work has gone on as before, but in addition my conflicts in 
soul about it have been deeper than before, and several new 
doors have been opened, (i .) Two hundred and fifty of the 7 1 st 
Regiment have come to the cavalry barracks, whom I visited 
on Tuesday and Friday, and whom I am to see again on 
Tuesday, if the Lord will. It seems very remarkable that 
the 93d and yist Regiments are the only ones whose depots 
I visited in Scotland, and that the whole of the 93d and so 
many of the ;ist should now be here. I have met with a 
number of the ;ist whom I knew well in Dundee, and this 
prepares my way among them. (2.) I have got liberty and 
more than liberty from the commanding officer of the 89th 

JEt. 29-31.] THE 93D AND 7 1 ST. 263 

(Irish) Regiment to meet with the men in their schoolroom 
from week to week. This seemed so unlikely, as he is said 
to be a Romanist, that I had given up thoughts of applying, 
but one of the men in the hospital wanted me to ask a favour 
for him, and this gave me an introduction. (3.) We have 
got most wonderfully the use of a large room exactly opposite 
the French church for holding meetings in, both in French 
and English all for nothing the owner being a friend of 
the gospel a hearer of Dr. Carruthers the Independent, 
whose church met for a long time in this very place. This 
seems a remarkable arrangement, as it is the very best place 
in the city for reaching the people." 

When the Free Church was opened at C6te Street, 
Montreal, the soldiers of the 93d had a distinct service 
allotted to them in the afternoon. On the arrival of 
Mr. Burns this service devolved on him; but besides 
preaching to the entire regiment on the Sabbath, he 
preached twice during the week in one of the largest 
rooms in the barracks; and he went frequently to the 
regimental hospital to address the sick and speak to the 
patients personally. Such was the high estimation in 
which he was held by soldiers both of that and of other 
regiments and of different denominations, that on several 
occasions when men of the regiment were sick, English 
men and Irishmen, Episcopalians and Roman Catholics, 
have sent to him earnest messages soliciting his visits and 
his prayers. To quote the words of Mr. Hector Macpher- 
son, then sergeant-major of the band of the regiment 
(now a lay-missionary at St. Martin s, Perthshire): "I 
shall never forget the first sermon he preached on the 
first Sabbath after his arrival. He gave out in the usual 

264 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1844-46. 

way the 320! Psalm to be sung, and had read the first 
four lines, when he began to unfold the feelings and 
experience of a penitent believer, in a way, to me at least, 
never opened up before nor since, and which was to my 
afflicted spirit as good news from a far land. It was like 
oil and wine to my afflicted spirit It was also greatly 
blessed to others of my fellow-soldiers. The man of God 
continued to address us in much freedom of heart and of 
power for three hours, concluding somewhat abruptly, 
but with words which indicated - a spirit of winning affec 
tion to every one: I see your time is up, but I hope to 
have farther opportunities of addressing you/ and solemnly 
pronounced the apostolic benediction." 

The many opportunities of hearing Mr. B., enjoyed 
by the men of the 93d Regiment, were eagerly improved 
by them; and the following description of the bearing of 
his preaching upon them, and which has been drawn by 
one of themselves, then a non-commissioned officer, is 
singularly graphic: "I have known the Rev. W. C. B. 
to send this famous regiment, these heroes of Balaclava, 
home to their barracks, after hearing him preach, every 
man of them less or more affected ; not a high word, or 
breath, or whisper heard among them; each man looking 
more serious than his comrade; awe-struck, like men 
that dreamed they were; and when at home, dismissed 
from parade, they could not dismiss their fears. Out of 
thirty men, the subdivision of a company under my 
charge, living in the same room, oiAyfive were bold enough 
that Sunday evening to go out to their usual haunts; and 
these must go afraid, as if by stealth, their consciences so 

JEt. 29-31.] THE PLACE D ARMES. 265 

troubled them; the other twenty-five, each with Bible in 
hand, bemoaning himself. Now, looking at the whole 
regiment from what took place in this one room of it, 
you may be able to judge of Mr. B. s powers as an ambas 
sador of Christ with clear credentials ! " 

While in the city of Montreal, and freely proclaiming 
the riches of grace in churches, and barrack-rooms, and 
hospitals, Mr. Burns found the field too narrow; and he 
went out to the highways, and streets, and squares of the 
city which was the especial scene of his apostolic labours. 
For the first two or three nights there was little opposition, 
but the majority of his hearers being Roman Catholics, the 
priests were made aware of what was going on and be 
came alarmed, and violent opposition was the issue. He 
never indeed used the word Popery, nor any term directly 
marking the system, or calculated to give needless offence ; 
but his finger, it would seem, touched the sore parts of the 
malady; and the effect was just as of old, when the men 
that turned the world upside down were assailing the 
strongholds of heathen superstition and sin. He writes 
in his journal: 

" Tuesday, September 2Qth. Evening at seven in open air 
in Place d Armes, in the centre of the city, in front of the 
great Romish cathedral. The proposal of this tried some 
spirits among us. When I went a considerable number had 
assembled, and among them a band of the 93d. I had a fine 
opportunity, and felt the power of the living God with us. 
Towards the end our enemies made a commotion. The 
mayor of the city, a Roman Catholic, came to stop me, but was 
restrained by God. As we retired about half-past nine we 
were mobbed, chiefly as usual through the excessive fears of 

266 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1844-46. 

friends seeking to guard me from violence. The mayor 
offered his protection, but I said to the people in his presence, 
No one will harm me it is my own friends who are creating 
groundless alarm. I would ask all to go quietly home, and 
if any one is my enemy he will give me his arm and we will 
go together. They quietly moved away. I put my hand on 
my white neckcloth and moved on unknown to the multitude. 
If the kingdom of Satan is to be disturbed here, this is but 
the shadow of what will yet come, and then shall many be 
offended. . . . 

"Friday, September 2jth. At half -past five in Place 
d Armes, awfully mocked and pelted, though with nothing 
deadly, yet got much truth delivered both while here and after 
going to an adjoining street, where a gentleman walking with 
me was struck on the back. While in the Place d Armes, 
one of the magistrates, evidently, I think, a Romanist, came 
and ordered me to remove, threatening me with the exercise 
of his power if I did not. I said I was doing no harm, and 
would continue, and that he might take me to prison if he 
pleased ; I was ready. He shrunk away and left me to go 
on. I feel that standing thus in the breach, though it may 
have no other effect, invigorates my own faith, lifts a testi 
mony honouring to God, and sets me on a high vantage- 
ground in preaching in the churches. . . . 

" Saturday, September 28^. This evening I was again in 
the field about six o clock. A great number assembled, and, 
in contrast with the previous night, they seemed to have ears 
given them to hear. This continued for some time, but after 
wards they began to throw gravel, &c., and to jostle me in the 
crowd. Little evil might have come of this, had not some 
who befriended me as a Scotchman sought to save me from 
danger; and thus my back being turned the crowd rushed on 
me, and I got away without my hat and one of the tails of 
my coat containing a handkerchief and Bible. Their enmity 
was so great that I believe the Bible was torn to pieces as 
well as the rest, the hat only being recovered. I got into a 

jEt. 29-31.] "THE MARKS OF THE LORD JESUS." 267 

shop, where many who trembled for me would have had me 
to remain, but I was quite above all fear, and went out again 
alone among the people, and got much opportunity of declar 
ing the truth on the way home. Surely these displays of 
enmity are a token that the Prince of darkness is in some 
degree afraid ! " 

These furious onsets are described by eye-witnesses as 
having been most terrible, and as having more than once 
threatened serious consequences. Thus, on one occasion, 
that evidently referred to in one of the above extracts, his 
coat was torn, his hat was knocked off and trampled on the 
ground; and his pocket-Bible, his constant companion, 
torn from his hand. On the other, a stone thrown with 
violence inflicted a severe wound on his cheek, and it 
bled freely. A few of the 93d rushed through the crowd, 
and one in anxiety said, "What s this? what s this?" 
Smiling, he replied, " Never mind, it s only a few scars in 
the Master s service." He was carried into the medical 
chamber of Dr. Macnider, near at hand, when that 
beloved Christian physician skilfully sewed up the wound. 
He came forth speedily as if nothing had taken place; 
and looking round calmly from his reassumed position, 
he exclaimed in the words of the great apostle of the 
Gentiles: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord 

Another hot day of battle is thus vividly described by 
the Rev. William Arnot, of the Free High Church, Edin 
burgh, who happened to be in Montreal at the same time, 
and who himself bravely joined him on the forlorn hope. 
"Once," he writes, "I went with him to the Haymarket 

268 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1844-46. 

Square, where he meant to preach in English. I went 
somewhat anxious for his safety, with intent to help him 
if need should arise. A circle soon gathered. He began 
to preach. More assembled outside thicker and thicker 
the girdle grew, but the roughest were outside. William 
and I stood alone in the middle of the ring, hedged very 
closely in, but the gentlest nearest us. Where they stood 
at first, they remained. No possibility of movement. 
Noise and throwing of dirt increased. When he became 
somewhat wearied I now and then took up the address, 
and the change of voice operated a little in our favour for 
getting a hearing. One Irish voice from the outside 
interrupted William at one time, shouting clear over all 
the din, The devil s dead. A great laugh followed. 
When it hushed, William struck in with a plaintive voice, 
tinged almost with the sarcastic, Ah ! then, you are a poor 
fatherless child! This raised a laugh in his favour, and 
under cover of it he was enabled to proceed for a while. 
We were besmeared with mud, thrown from the outer 
circles, but not hurt. 

"The violent opposition of the Irish, however, eventually 
drove him off. He desisted, as the first missionaries 
did, when the persecution became violent, and went to 
another city." 

At length the hostile Romanist mayor was replaced in 
his office by another of different spirit an excellent 
Protestant gentleman, of the Wesleyan body, who lent the 
full weight of his authority and moral support to the cause 
of order and of peace. Appearing seasonably at one of 
the meetings where tumultuous disturbances were appre- 

jEt. 29-31.] THE FRENCH CANADIANS. 269 

bended, he speedily succeeded in calming the storm, and 
the assembly soon dispersed without injury to any one. 
Thereafter he waited on Mr. Burns for consultation on 
the case. As soon as he had stated the object of his 
visit, said Mr. Burns, "Let us pray;" when as they knelt 
together he touched the mayor on the shoulder and said, 
"You ll pray." He did pray, asking the divine direction, 
and a blessing on the labours of Mr. Burns, and left him 
with the single request that he would send him notice 
when and where he would next preach. 

The city of Montreal was only one, though perhaps 
the most important scene of Mr. Burns Canadian 
labours. His mission was to the whole dominion of 
Canada, which may be considered now as including, 
or as designed to include, all the dependencies of the 
British crown in North America. In 1844 the name 
embraced only two branches of one province, Canada 
East and Canada West; the former being now termed 
the province of Quebec, and the latter that of Ontario. 
Lower Canada was then, as it had been for ages and still 
is, settled by French Canadians, speaking the French 
language, and subject to debasing superstition and a 
dominant priestcraft. The whole land groans under the 
tyrannical sway of perhaps the most wealthy and powerful 
hierarchy under the dominion of the see of Rome. We 
have no doubt that in seeing their splendid palaces, their 
magnificent cathedrals, colleges, and convents; in seeing 
the lovely land almost wholly "given to idolatry," the 
spirit of Mr. Burns was greatly stirred within him. Hence 
the interest he took, all the time he was in Canada, in the 

270 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1844-46. 

state of the poor "habitants," the benighted French 
Canadian Roman Catholics; and hence the avidity and 
the success with which, as we shall presently see, he 
revived his knowledge of the French language, so as to be 
able, in a comparatively short space of time, to speak 
intelligibly and fluently in the French tongue. 

Canada West, or Ontario as it is now called, may be 
termed a Protestant country, inhabited too no doubt by 
many Roman Catholics especially from Ireland, and by 
not a few settlers from Germany and the United States ; 
but unquestionably the English and the Scottish elements 
greatly preponderate. The leading Protestant denomina 
tions are, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Bap 
tists, and Congregationalists. Of these, the first three are 
each nearly equal in point of numbers, amounting to not 
much less than one million in all. The population of the 
whole "Dominion," including Nova Scotia and New 
Brunswick, is estimated at four millions. Prior to the era 
of the Disruption in 1843, the state of our countrymen in 
Canada was anything but promising. The framework of 
a Presbyterian church was indeed set up, and a number 
of pious ministers had been from time to time sent out 
both by the Establishment and the Secession; and the 
annals of the early Presbyterian church are adorned 
with a few noble names. Generally speaking, however, 
the system was cold, formal, and stiff; and spiritual 
religion in the line of Scottish Presbyterianism was low. 
The Disruption wrought wonders for Canada. Many 
pious men in the cities and in the land generally sighed 
for a change; and the arrival of deputies from the Free 


Church in regular succession for five years, formed quite 
a hew era in the religious history of the province. 

No Protestant missionary can be useful to any great 
extent in "Lower Canada" who is not able to converse 
and to preach in the French language; and Mr. Burns 
very soon felt the necessity of revising his attainments in 
that direction. So successful was he in this, that he not 
only addressed the "habitants" regularly in their own 
language, but, seemingly with the view of acquiring still 
greater facility in the use of it, he wrote a large proportion 
of his Canadian journal in the French language. As a 
specimen of his manner of dealing with his French 
auditors, and the admirable tact with which he met 
occasional cases of argument and appeal, we select the 
following letter addressed to friends in Scotland from a 
place at some distance from Montreal : 

"Farnham, Lower Canada, April 2ist, 1845. MY DEAR 
FRIENDS, When I last wrote to Mr. Milne about a month 
ago, I was at the French Canadian Missionary House at St. 
Re", twenty-three miles from where I now am. I returned to 
Montreal shortly after, and had the great pleasure of receiv 
ing on my arrival your welcome letter. I desire to thank you 
for your great kindness in ministering to my temporal wants, 
but much more, as you yourselves say, for seeking to bear me 
on your hearts at a throne of grace. My temporal wants are 
few, and Canada can easily supply them all but my spiritual 
necessities are very great, and I dwell indeed in a dry and 
parched land, where no water is ; yet I cannot deny that I 
find by experience that the God of Israel is everywhere 
present with his poor people, and that his presence is not 
excluded from the recesses of a Canadian forest. I could 
not but remark that your season for specially remembering 

272 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1844-46. 

me was very nearly one when I needed very special support, 
and when I saw the Lord very clearly leading me in a path 
that I knew not. On the second day after I received your 
letter (28th March) I again left Montreal, with the view of 
visiting some desolate settlements of Protestants (chiefly 
Scotch and Irish) in the quarter where I still am, and also 
desiring to find some opening among the poor French 
Canadians, who are the principal inhabitants here and 
around. One of my fellow-travellers was a young Canadian 
student at the French college of St. Hyacinthe, with whom 
I had some conversation. He said if I were at their college 
they would soon convince me that I was in error. The open 
ing was too favourable to be neglected, and I said that if 
I was in the neighbourhood I would certainly call upon him. 
In consequence of this .the following Wednesday (April 2d) 
I set out for Yamaska, the seat of the college. TJie thaw 
here was so rapid at that time that the most of the bridges 
were swept away by the breaking up of the ice, which till 
then, as you may suppose, had formed so strong a covering, 
that the heaviest waggons could pass and repass upon the 
rivers. In consequence, I found that the stage could not 
proceed, and that I must either go on foot or return. I felt it 
my duty to go on ; and though the distance was considerable 
(eighteen miles) in deep roads, I easily made it out, and 
reached the college on Thursday at seven o clock. I must 
also mention a circumstance which happened by the way, 
which was remarkable when connected with what it led to. 
When I was about half-way I was a little fatigued, and was 
wishing to find some house where I might rest a little ; but 
the houses were all French, and I saw no appearance of a 
public inn. However, the Lord directed me. Beside the 
road I saw a sheep which had got into a muddy ditch, and 
seemed to be unable to get out. I of course laid hold of it 
and pulled it out, thinking of the parable of Jesus. The 
people in the nearest house came out, and we got into con 
versation about the lost sheep in the gospel. I asked them 


if there was any house where I could refresh myself; they 
invited me in with them. I told them on entering who I 
was ; that if they wished it I might pass on, or if otherwise, 
that I might speak to them the more freely. They did not 
object to receive me as a Protestant and a Scotch minister of 
the gospel, and when we began to converse about the nature 
of my religion as compared with theirs, they were so en 
gaged that it was difficult to get away from them, after re 
maining with them a full hour and a half. They askecl me 
to remain during the night, as they said that with such 
roads I could not reach my destination. However, as I was 
obliged to return from Yamaska the following day (Friday) 
in order to fulfil another engagement, I resolved to go 
forward, and bade them adieu. I got easily forward, being 
supported by a strong sense of duty, and by the presence, I 
trust, of the great Master himself, and on arriving called 
for the young man I have alluded to. He seemed more care 
less than before, and was evidently afraid to show to any of 
those around him any mark of anxiety. He said, If you 
wish to see any of the priests I will let them know. No/ I 
replied ; I have no such desire on my own account, as I 
have no doubt that they are in deadly error, and that this 
book (the Bible) contains the truth of God. It is for your 
benefit that I am come, and if you have any desire to be 
instructed, you must ask them to converse on the subject in 
your presence. He hesitated at this, but said, If you be here 
to-morrow, you may call at twelve o clock, when it will be 
more convenient than now. I spent the night in a French 
inn, and the object of my visit becoming known, occasioned 
doubtless a good deal of conversation, and led in particular 
two strangers to ask me to converse with them on the subject. 
At the hour appointed I went to the college, and found the 
young man of the same mind as before. However, he said, 
I will go and see what the priests say. He returned after 
some time to tell me that they absolutely refused to speak 
with me on these things unless I met them entirely alone. 


274 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1844-46. 

Of course I had no wish for this, as it might have been 
turned to a bad purpose; and after warning a number of 
the young men of the awful danger of allowing themselves to 
be blindly led by those who feared the light, I came away, 
and set out on my journey. These young men told me they 
were not allowed to see the Bible, although not younger than 
seventeen. As I came along the street in front of the French 
church, thinking that I had seen the end of my visit, to my 
surprise I met the man in whose house I had been the 
previous day, and whom some business had brought to the 
village. On learning the result of my visit to the college, 
he said, Come, we will go to the curd (parish priest) and 
converse with him. I told him I was willing, provided he 
understood that it was on his account that we went. He 
entered, and after a little returned and invited me in. I 
there met three priests and a number of their poor parish 
ioners, and after explaining the circumstances which led to 
our meeting, we had a solemn and interesting interview for 
some time, during which I had an opportunity of stating 
some important truths which may yet be blessed, and of 
bringing before them the question of their own personal sal 
vation. I have indeed cause to wonder at the strength given 
me on this occasion, and also, that though our intercourse 
was altogether in a foreign tongue, I felt scarcely more diffi 
culty than in English. Since that time I have been preach 
ing among the Protestants exclusively, although now and 
then I find an opportunity of meeting a few Canadians. 
Their spiritual sleep is indeed deep, and such as no power 
but that of God can break, even so far as to lead them to 
hear the truth. Their leaders cause them to err, and the 
poor people love to have it so. I have seen nothing very re 
markable of a spiritual nature among our countrymen since 
I came to Canada, but our meetings are often very solemn, 
and during these past days I have seen as much appearance 
of impression as since I came to this land. It is my inten 
tion to return soon to Montreal for a time, and it may be 


that when this reaches you I shall be attempting again to 
reach the multitude there in the open air, and that in both 
languages. You will then see what need we have of your 
prayers. My heart is often among you, and I do often plead 
for your salvation, and the advancement of Emmanuel s glory 
in you. I close these lines with the words I spoke on here 
yesterday evening: The grace of God that bringeth salva 
tion hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying un 
godliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, right 
eously, and godly in this present world; looking for that 
blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and 
our Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, that he 
might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a 
peculiar people, zealous of good works/ 

"May these glorious ends be accomplished in you and me 
to his name s glory ! Commending you to God and to the 
word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give 
you an inheritance among all them that are sanctified, I am 
ever yours in the bonds of the gospel, W. C. BURNS." 

After a second visit of a few days to Quebec, where it 
will be remembered he first opened his commission as a 
herald of the cross on American ground, he was invited 
to visit Leeds and the Gaelic district of Inverness settle 
ments, about fifty miles from the city. It was on this 
occasion he revived his knowledge of the Gaelic language, 
already somewhat familiar to him from his visits to the 
Highlands of Perthshire; and the raftsmen who were his 
fellow -voyagers on the St. Lawrence were valuable assist 
ants to him in this work, while he imparted to them the 
rich treasures of evangelical truth. The settlers at Inver 
ness heard from his lips the glorious gospel in the language 
most familiar to them, and the blessed results were deep 
and lasting. When Mr. Clark of Quebec and Dr. Burns 

276 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1844-46. 

of Toronto visited the same place in 1863 they found a 
fresh revival of religion, specially marked by distinct me 
morials of the earlier labours of Mr. Burns. The visit of 
these gentlemen was in the midst of harvest; but the 
labourers, eager to hear, found two hours at mid-day, 
besides two hours in the evening, to wait on the preaching 
of the Word. 

In regard to the attainments of Mr. Burns in the lan 
guage of the settlers, we have been favoured with the 
following testimony of the Rev. Mr. M Rae, of Knock- 
bain, one of our ablest Gaelic scholars. 1 Mr. M. is 
speaking of a visit to Brodick, in the Isle of Arran, in 1847, 
when Mr. B. was his fellow-labourer: "As I was always 
at hand to address the people in Gaelic, he made less 
use of that language than otherwise he might have done. 
But on one occasion he read a psalm in Gaelic, and com 
mented upon it, when many of the people remarked that 

they understood him better than they did Mr. , a 

minister who had been recently preaching to them. On 
several occasions, when addressing the people in English, 
he introduced Gaelic words and phrases, and pointed out 
their expressiveness and beauty. For instance, speaking of 
the term adoption] he said, In your own beautiful language 
it is uchd-mhachd, bosom-sonship S and again commenting on 
2 Corinthians v. 20: I beseech you in Christ s stead, he 
said, In your own language it is very striking, as uchd 
Chriosd, out of Christ s bosom, as if the preacher were a 
voice from Christ s own heart inviting perishing sinners. 
Mr. B. s knowledge of Gaelic was wonderful, considering 
1 Letter dated I2th December, 1868. 


the short time he had devoted to the study of it." " He 
pronounced the Gaelic with astonishing accuracy, show 
ing a mastery over the very shibboleths of the language." 
"The copy of the Gaelic Scriptures which he used he had 
received from a soldier in a Highland regiment, and he 
manifestly regarded it as a valuable memento." 

The following notices from an intelligent correspondent 
afford some interesting glimpses of his labours elsewhere: 

"At Williamstown, where the church was denied him 
by the minister and session, the innkeeper readily allowed 
Mr. Burns to preach under his roof, to a very respectable 
audience of attentive listeners. At Lochiel he stood in 
a waggon by the roadside and freely proclaimed the glad 
tidings of salvation, one of his hearers, against his wishes, 
holding an umbrella over his head to protect him from 
the scorching rays of a Canadian sun. 

" In the afternoon he preached in a barn, from Psalm 
xvii. 8, which sermon was blessed for the conversion of 
one individual, who is now one of the principal elders of 
the Free Church there. 

" In Kenyon he preached in English, but many of the 
Gaelic people waited to hear him. A pious old woman, 
who understood no English, was asked why she remained. 
She replied, I thought it would be a privilege to be in 
cluded in that dear minister s prayers. And another thing 
did me good : he seemed to dwell particularly on one 
word, spoken in such sweet tones, it sent a glow to my 
heart the word salvation; what does that mean? 

" During the communion services at Indian Lands, where 
his labours on a previous visit had been blessed to many, 

278 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1844-46. 

he preached for several successive days to crowds of 
eager listeners, who with one accord declared they had 
never heard such glorious truths. In addressing the 
communicants, one of his persuasive remarks was, If 
you cannot come in by the saint s door, oh ! come in by 
the sinner s ! A poor idiot who had been present remained 
after the congregation dispersed, and walked around the 
small tent (where Mr. Burns still lingered, engaged in 
prayer), several times, exclaiming, You touch my heart, 
you touch my heart. Mr. B. s attention was attracted to 
him; one of the people told him not to mind the man, he 
was a fool. Ay, ay, one of Christ s fools, perhaps/ which 
rebuked the man. Learning that there was a small colony 
of French Canadians several miles distant, he immediately 
decided upon visiting them, and having first addressed 
the English people of the place, in a grist-mill, he then 
preached to the French quite fluently in their own language. 
They listened as if spell-bound. He afterwards conversed 
with them individually in fluent French, and they united 
in saying, He was the best priest they ever heard speak 
ing. " 

In moving from place to place on his evangelistic tours 
in the country districts, Mr. Burns did not often avail 
himself of the conveyances readily provided by friends, 
but if at all practicable would invariably travel on foot, 
so as to avail himself of the opportunities afforded in 
this way of speaking a word in season and out of season 
to groups of labourers working in the fields, or any one 
whom he happened to meet travelling on the highway. It 
is only those who have been in Canada that can know how 

JEt. 29-31.] U IN JOURNEYINGS OFTEN." 279 

trying, and therefore how rare such foot travelling must 
be, owing to the extremes of heat and cold, and the rude 
state of the roads. When going on long journeys, and 
obliged to sail on the lakes, it was his constant practice 
to preach on board the steamers to all who might be 
disposed to hear him. On these occasions he more par 
ticularly addressed himself to the deck passengers, usually 
composed of emigrants and persons of the labouring and 
of the poorer classes. The calm and peaceful surface 
of the expanding lakes, and the even flow of the mighty 
rivers, greatly favoured such evangelistic efforts. The 
more intelligent and respectable managers on such con 
veyances encouraged these efforts by granting a free 
passage; and there cannot be a doubt that such unre 
quited and humble methods of doing good have been 
frequently owned by a blessing from on high. If Mr. 
Burns was known afterwards in China as "the man of the 
book," he was equally so known in Canada, as well as 
in his native land. 

The following short sketch taken from his journal may 
give some idea of the variety and extent of his labours 
as a missionary in Canada West, while it embraces also 
places visited by him within the line of East or Lower 
Canada. "I have preached at St. Eustache, Lachute, 
St. Andrews, Hawkesbury, L Original, and Vankleekhill, 
and yesterday evening I preached twice in French, but 
these meetings have not been large. Cornwall, Saturday, 
July 26//i, 1845. In the course of these last weeks I 
have preached often in English and in French, at Lochiel, 
Indian Lands, Kenyon, Roxbury, Finch, Martintown, 

280 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1844-46. 

Williamstown, Lancaster, &c. I have had nine little French 
meetings since the last date. In general they were well 
disposed to listen to the word. Some of our English 
meetings have been very large and serious; but alas! the 
spiritual deadness of this country is very great. It became 
at last necessary for me to bear a distinct testimony to the 
principles of the Free Church. The report of the pro 
ceedings of the Assembly of that church are interesting. 
Their prosperity in an external point of view is very 
remarkable. May their spiritual prosperity be in propor 
tion. There was formerly at Martintown near this, a true 
minister of Jesus Christ named Connel, who appears to 
have been the means of saving many souls. He died ten 
years ago, but his memory is blessed, as is that of all the 
just. After having preached at Cornwall, and further down 
on the shores of the St. Lawrence, I crossed the Salmon 
river to Dundee, quite near New York state, and from that 
place I preached as I went along towards Montreal, where 
I arrived last Thursday; having visited on my way Fort 
Covington, in New York state, La Riviere De Loup, 
Lake Strove, Huntingdon, St. Michael s, Durham, North 
Georgetown. Sometimes I have been a little encouraged, 
but in general spiritual religion, which alone saves the 
human soul, appears to be very rare. Nevertheless I have 
met with some people who seem to love the Lord. 
Yesterday I tried again to preach out of doors, but with 
little success. They stoned and pelted me with mud, 
but by the grace of God I escaped danger. One poor 
man in the crowd recognized me as the person whom he 
had seen beaten at Dublin near the custom-house. Al- 


though a Romanist, he appeared yesterday much disposed 
to listen to the word, and his testimony in my favour will 
be undoubtedly useful among his countrymen." After a 
fortnight s labour at By town, now the city of Ottawa, where 
Mr. Wardrope, the excellent minister there, had been re 
cently settled, he visited Bristol, Perth, Lanark, Dalhousie, 
Beckwith, Smith s Falls, Carleton Place, St. Andrews, 
Brockville, Prescott, and Kingston. At this last place he 
remained some weeks, and besides supplying the Free 
Church there, he preached seven times to the soldiers of the 
7 ist Regiment whom he had formerly seen. The principal 
officer gave him liberty to do so, and this he devoutly 
notices as a proof of encouragement from God. He 
preached also in the country all around, particularly 
Gananoque, Glenburnie, and two other places; meeting 
everywhere with encouragement more or less. He visited 
also Cobourg, Belleville, and other places adjacent, such 
as Demorestville, Picton, and Napanee. When at King 
ston he received through Dr. Begg, who had come out as 
a deputy from the Free Church, a letter inviting him to 
visit France. The impression on his mind by this circum 
stance is thus noted in his journal: "Perhaps the Lord 
intends to call me thither, to bear testimony to his truth. 
May his will be done ! Nevertheless, I must go to the 
upper part of this province; to London, for example, 
and its vicinity." He then adverts to his visits to, 
and missionary labours at, Fredericksburg, Peterborough, 
Ottonabee, Port Hope, Clarke, Newcastle, Toronto, Nia 
gara, Streetsville, and Esquesing; "preaching," as he says, 
"everywhere the word of God which liveth and endureth 

282 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1844-46. 

for ever." "At Toronto," he says, "I had much pleasure in 
meeting with the young men who are at college preparing 
for the work of the ministry. There are some among them 
who seem to be true Christians; and they are all making 
satisfactory progress in their studies." In the summer of 
1846 he visited a considerable portion of the western terri 
tory, preaching at Oakville, Wellington Square, Hamilton, 
London, St. Thomas, Williams, Lobo, Southwold, Dun- 
wich, Aldbro, Mora, Eckford, Chatham, Amherstburgh 
near the boundary line, Detroit in the United States, and 
Port Sarnia, meeting everywhere with encouragement. At 
Amherstburgh, he preached to a congregation of blacks, 
formerly slaves, who interested him much. At Sarnia 
he preached by means of an interpreter to an interesting 
assembly of American Indians, who are under the instruc 
tions of the Methodist missionaries; and, as might have 
been expected, the meeting and exercises were very 
solemn and edifying. Two months labours were be 
stowed on Imperial, Woodstock, Beechville, Bradford, 
Lower Stratford, &c. In 1846 most of the places visited 
by Mr. Burns in Canada West were as yet unsupplied 
either with Free Churches or ministers; and his labours 
and varied ministrations were singularly blessed of God, 
as means of uniting and quickening the members. 
Among the ministers whom he found settled in those 
parts, we notice the names of Messrs. Wardrope, Graham, 
and Macalester, all of whom often spoke of the great 
refreshing and spiritual edification enjoyed by them and 
their people from his visits. Of the labours also of the 
Free Church deputies, particularly Dr. Bonar, Mr. Arnot, 


Mr. Somerville, and Mr. Munro, he speaks with great 
interest. These were the ministers who had the charge 
of the "Free Church" congregation at Cote Street, 
Montreal, during his residence in Canada, and each of 
them appreciated the value of his labours, and readily 
took part with him in them. 

Among the varied testimonies we have received to the 
good effects of the visit of Mr. Burns to Canada, one of 
the most valuable is that of the Rev. Alexander Cameron 
of Ardersier, whose opportunities of information were 
peculiarly favourable, " It was my lot," says he, "shortly 
after the return of Mr. Burns from Canada, to labour 
among the Highlanders of Glengarry for some years until 
health failed. I found the people in a very interesting 
state of mind, many of them cherishing a tenderness 
of conscience and a brokenness of spirit, and thirsting 
eagerly for the Word of life. Some of all ages were in 
this condition, but especially young men and young 
women. The crowds that congregated on the Sabbaths 
at Lochiel, the most central station at which I preached, 
were sometimes very great. In the district of Glengarry, 
where there are now seven or eight ministers, there was 
then only one, Mr. Daniel Clark of Indian Lands, and 
myself; consequently the people came from all quarters, 
travelling five, ten, or even twenty miles and upwards. 
Many of them started on the Saturday so as to be forward 
in time for the morning service. The poor Roman 
Catholics observing all this, thought the heads of their 
Protestant neighbours were turned. In one sense it was 
easy to preach to these thirsty souls, for the word of God 

284 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1844-46. 

was precious in those days. It was the same wherever I 
went; no matter where sermon was intimated to be 
preached in any school-room or district, the place would 
be crowded, even although such meetings were continued 
in different places nearly the whole week, as sometimes 
happened in winter; and often a few of the more ardent 
spirits would attend all these meetings, travelling from 
place to place for this purpose. The face of things began 
gradually but steadily to change. Old customs and in 
veterate habits were one by one abandoned. Balls and 
merry-makings and New Year s festivals, so frequent in 
that country, were fast disappearing. Some of the leaders 
in such things with their own hands cast their fiddles and 
bagpipes into the fire; and instead of the sounds of revelry 
the voice of praise and spiritual melody began to be heard 
in their dwellings. Zion was meanwhile putting on her 
beautiful garments. Communion seasons were now more 
like those in old Ferintosh than the former scanty gather 
ings in the backwoods. This state of things I ascribe 
chiefly under God to the labours of Mr. Burns. Doubt 
less many other able and excellent men, especially some 
from the Free Church at home, laboured faithfully, and I 
believe successfully, in Glengarry; but the visit of Mr. 
Burns in my estimation was the crowning visit, and the 
impression produced by his preaching and his godly 
demeanour was deep, pervasive, and abiding. The great 
day alone shall fully declare it." 

The following testimony in regard to the spirit of his 
mind when engaged in missionary labour in the district 
of Glengarry is well deserving of record. It is from the 

JEt. 29-31.] PERSONAL TRAITS. 285 

communication of a Christian minister who had long 
laboured on the same spot, and although specially illus 
trative of Mr. Burns character in connection with that 
locality, its leading features are more or less reflected from 
all the. scenes of his labours. " He appeared to have con 
tinually in view an impression that he should do some 
thing for God, for his own soul, for the souls of others, 
and for eternity. His conversation was that of a man of 
extensive information, who knew how to apply it effec 
tually to the best of purposes. His disposition was 
amiable, his feelings were tender; combined with a clear 
judgment, great firmness, caution and patience, qualities 
essential to dealing properly with unreasonable persons 
and with difficult questions. He did not consider that he 
had a warrant to proceed in any sacred duty without a 
consciousness of having the divine presence. I have 
sometimes seen him on this point in very great per 
plexity, earnestly wishing and praying for a special mes 
sage direct from Heaven, and doubtful which was duty, 
to proceed or to keep silence : like Moses who prayed, 
If thy presence go not with us, carry us not up hence ! " 
The following sketch under the hand of an intelligent 
office-bearer of our church in Glengarry, at whose house 
Mr. Burns sojourned, and by whom he was conducted on 
his missionary way, may illustrate the obstacles which 
stand in the way of itinerating labour in Canada, and 
the manner in which they were met and conquered by 
Mr. Burns. " A furious snow-storm having come on, he 
was detained for a week; and the state of the roads pre 
vented any public meetings being held; but he improved 

286 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1844-46. 

the time by conversing on matters pertaining to the king 
dom with our household, including farm-servants, among 
whom were several French Canadians. We found him 
remarkably agreeable and sociable as a guest, entertaining 
us with incidents relative to his labours in Ireland, and 
those parts of Scotland where revivals have taken place. 
The recital of incidents connected with such themes 
always caused his countenance to beam with a heavenly 
joy. Much of his time also was spent in retirement and 
over his Bible, which he often carried to the table at 
meal times, referring to it whenever a pause in the conver 
sation gave him an opportunity. Having an appointment 
to preach in the Congregational chapel, Indian Lands, so 
soon as the snow-storm subsided, he and I made a des 
perate effort to fulfil the engagement. Taking a powerful 
team of horses and a strong sleigh, we found the roads in 
an almost impassable state; the horses floundering in the 
snow, which in some places almost hid them from our 
view; and in other places they were incapable of moving 
forward one step, till I got out and made a track before 
them. In remarking on the state of the roads I hap 
pened to say, This is awful! but was instantly checked 
by my dear fellow-traveller saying, Oh ! my dear sir, there 
is nothing awful but the wrath of God. Although travel 
ling at the rate of only one mile an hour, we arrived at 
our destination in due time, where we found a goodly 
number assembled: and he delivered an impressive ser 
mon, taking for illustration things that he had noticed 
along our route, such as the clearances in the forest, with 
the other usual symptoms of progress in the settlements." 


References having been more than once made to the 
services of the deputies from the Free Church to Canada, 
it may not be unsuitable to insert the following notices 
from one of the friends who have contributed materials 
for this chapter: "When I arrived in Montreal, in 1842, 
the spiritual condition of the three congregations was 
deplorably low, and, with very few exceptions, it was so 
throughout the country. But I make special reference to 
Montreal, where there were a very few like the gleanings 
of the vintage who were longing and waiting for the sal 
vation of Zion. These few were led to unite in prayer to 
the exalted Head of the Church to hasten his coming by 
whom he would; and ^was graciously pleased to hear 
their cry, and send his servants. The first was Dr. Burns of 
Paisley, whose first sermon was from Revelation i. 17, 18. 
To some this sermon was the fulfilment of the promise, 
When the poor and the needy seek water, &c. I think 
Dr. Burns was followed by Mr. John Bonar (afterwards 
Dr. Bonar), full of love, and meekness, and wisdom, 
and undaunted courage. He was pre-eminently honoured 
of God in gathering and uniting the scattered sheep, and 
in organizing the Cote Street congregation, and, indeed, of 
advancing the interests of the church throughout the whole 
province. In his arrival was beautifully seen the majestic 
goings forth of Him who is wonderful in counsel. Mr. 
Bonar was succeeded by other eminent servants of God, 
whose special mission was to supply the Cote Street congre 
gation, which was then the great centre of the Free Church 
in Canada." Among these may be specially noted Mr. 
Arnot, then of Glasgow, now of the Free High Church, 

288 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1844-46. 

Edinburgh; Mr. Somerville of Anderston, Glasgow; Mr. 
Munro of Rutherglen; Mr. Macnaughton of Paisley, now 
of Belfast; Mr. Buchanan of Bothwell, now of D Urban, 
S. Africa; Professor King, now of Halifax, Nova Scotia; 
Mr. J. C. Burns of Kirkliston; Dr. Begg of Edinburgh; 
Mr. Paterson of Tranent; the late Mr. Miller of Dundee, 
and afterwards of Newcastle; Mr. Cobban of Braemar; 
who, during periods more or less extended, laboured in 
the cities, and occasionally in the rural districts, to the 
edifying of multitudes of hearers, and to the effect of 
laying firm and deep the foundations of what in its 
character as a "united church" may now with perfect 
propriety be called the "Free Presbyterian Church of 

Mr. Burns returned to Scotland after about two years 
of incessant labour in Canada in the same vessel in which 
he had before sailed for the West, arriving in Glasgow on 
the 1 5th September, 1846. He was still in vigorous 
health, yet showing but too evident traces of the exhaust 
ing and peculiarly trying scenes which he had passed 
through. The clear tones of a voice of more than ordinary 
compass and power were gone; his mind and spirit were 
worn and jaded; and he had already begun to acquire a 
certain aged look which he never afterwards wholly lost. 
He had indeed emphatically "endured hardness as a 
good soldier of Jesus Christ," and he bore the marks 
of it more or less to his grave. 

1846 1847. 


MY readers will remember a statement from my 
brother s own hand of the circumstances of his 
first consecration to the missionary work, and of the re 
markable train of events by which the fulfilment of his 
purpose was temporarily, though, as it seemed, indefinitely, 
delayed. That purpose still remained unchanged. He 
was still as much as ever, and all through those laborious 
and eventful intervening years, a missionary at heart, and 
only waited the intimation of the Master s will as to the 
time and the place of his appointed work. He had heard 
the general summons of the divine Commander, " Who 
will go for me?" and he had resolutely answered, "Here am 
I, send me." That answer had been recorded in heaven, 
and lived evermore within his heart. Amid all his home 
labours he spoke and acted under the solemn sense of it 
spoke and acted as a missionary just about to go forth 
to a distant land, and only addressing a few parting words 
to his brethren at home ere the final summons to depart 
should reach him. How that summons came at last, and 
in what spirit it was obeyed, will be best told in his own 
words, in the continuation of, the same statement just 


referred to, dated at sea, "Thursday, July 29th, 1847, l at - 
25 30 south; Ion. 28 40 west. . . . From this 
time (July 23d, 1839) until the Disruption I appeared to 
have a special work to do in my own country, and having 
no call to the missionary field I thought no further of it 
than this, that I did not feel it would be lawful for me to 
settle at home, but only to comply with present calls of 
duty to preach the Word. In the year 1843, and still 
more in 1844, I found my heart very much drawn off 
from the home field the days of God s great power with 
me seeming to be in a great measure past, and ecclesias 
tical questions having taken so deep a hold on the public 
mind, that it was not in a state as before to be dealt with 
simply about the question of conversion. In these cir 
cumstances I went at the call of some friends to Dublin 
in 1844 to try the field there, but finding no great open 
ing I returned to Scotland, and the way being made very 
clearly open for my going on a visit to Canada, I sailed 
for Montreal, August 10. In Canada I found sufficient 
evidence that it was indeed the call of God which I obeyed 
in going to it; but after labouring there for nearly two years, 
and having gone over the ground which seemed providen 
tially laid out for me, I felt that unless I were to remain 
there for life, the time was come for my departure. I 
was confirmed in this view by having had my mind afresh 
directed towards India by a letter from an acquaintance 
there, and also by a call from our continental committee 
to make use of my newly acquired knowledge of French 
by visiting the continent of Europe. I accordingly sailed 
from Quebec for Scotland on August 2oth, 1846, having 


a deep impression that I should find no special work to 
do in Scotland that would detain me there longer than a 
few months, but feeling quite uncertain what would be 
my ultimate destination. On my arrival I was asked 
anew to go to the Continent, but against this there were 
objections. I did not see any prospect of doing much 
there during a brief visit, and I could not but reflect that 
at my period of life it must be now decided whether I 
was to preach from place to place to the end or go to a 
heathen field, as originally destined. At any rate I felt 
that I could decide on nothing until I had paid a few 
visits to those home fields with which I had formerly been 
connected. This work occupied me during the autumn 
and the early part of the winter. I might have protracted 
the period indefinitely; being encompassed with invita 
tions on every hand ; but as I did not see or feel any 
special blessing in this work, I preached no more than I 
could not avoid doing, and then came the question, What 
is my duty with reference to the future? About the end 
of the year, at the time of the Parsee s ordination in Edin 
burgh, I arrived at the clear decision that I was not at 
liberty to labour any longer as hitherto without ascertain 
ing whether our missionary committee would still desire 
me to fulfil my original intention. I accordingly called 
on Dr. Candlish, and having laid before him my views, 
and joined with him in imploring divine guidance, he 
stated that he thought it was clearly my duty to go as 
originally destined to the heathen, provided that I found 
no special cause as heretofore to detain me, and said that 
he would confer with others on the subject. He did so, 


but found that though no one would object to my going 
if I wished to do so, yet as the Indian stations were all 
occupied, there was no special opening for me. At this 
very time, and while they were actually conversing on the 
matter, a letter came to the convener of the Foreign Mis 
sion Committee, Dr. James Buchanan, from James Hamil 
ton of Regent Square, London (convener of the English 
Presbyterian Church Missionary Committee), making 
earnest inquiry whether Dr. B. could point out any 
minister or preacher in Scotland who might be suitable 
to go as their first missionary to China, seeing they had 
contemplated this mission for more than two years, but 
had as yet been disappointed in rinding suitable agents. 
This seemed to Dr. B. a providential coincidence, and 
without communicating with me, he wrote mentioning a 
few names and mine among the rest. Some weeks elapsed 
without my hearing anything further on the subject; but 
meanwhile my own experience more and more pointed my 
thoughts and desires to the foreign field, and at last in 
the beginning of February a letter came to me from Mr. 
Hamilton, in which, after reminding me of my original 
design and prospects regarding an eastern mission, he 
mentioned the position of their own missionary scheme, 
and asked what my views in regard to embarking in such 
an undertaking now were. As he wished a speedy answer 
I could only reply that the matter was too varied in its 
bearings and of too momentous a character to be at once 
decided on; but that it would be the subject of prayer 
and consideration, as well as of conference with the ser 
vants of God around me. On receipt of my letter, their 

JEt. 31-32.] SEEKING LIGHT. 293 

missionary committee instructed Mr. Hamilton to send 
me an express and earnest call to become their church s 
first missionary to China. I received this, but still found 
myself unable to arrive at a final decision. Regarding 
the importance of the work there could be no doubt ; but 
when I considered on the one hand the manner in which 
God had hitherto called me to labour, and the many calls 
at home and abroad which I still had to preach the word 
as heretofore; and on the other considered the uncertainty 
of my being suited to the peculiarities of the Chinese 
field, I felt embarrassed, and though I wrote a letter of 
acceptance, I could not send it off, but rather suspended 
the case by letting them know my difficulties, and my 
need of delay, with a view of getting further light. I also 
urged them in the interval to look out for others, and 
mentioned two ministers to whom they might apply. 
Another ten days elapsed, during which I was in Edin 
burgh, as I had been for some time previously, preaching 
in St. Luke s, &c., and now also assisting Dr. Duncan in his 
junior Hebrew class, his health being imperfect. The call 
to China was gradually assuming more and more import 
ance in my view, and though some of God s servants seemed 
to doubt whether it was a field suitable to my habits, &c., 
yet the prevailing opinion seemed to be that I ought to 
go. Feeling that I must resume communication with the 
English committee, I went out before doing so to Kilsyth, 
at the communion season on the first Sabbath of March, 
that I might sit, it might be, for the last time at the table 
of the Lord Jesus on earth with my beloved parents, and 
that I might have the aid of their counsel, and that of my 

294 LIFE OF REV - WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1846-47. 

cousins David and Charles J. Brown (of Glasgow and 
Edinburgh), who were expected to be my father s assist 
ants. On the Monday after the communion I wrote to 
London again to let it be known that I was still weighing 
the matter brought before me, and that with a view to 
arrive at a final and satisfactory decision, I would be glad 
to be furnished with information in regard to the nature 
of the work in which they would wish or expect me to be 
engaged, and also to learn what length of time it would 
require to attain an adequate knowledge of the language 
with a view to preach the gospel in it. I also stated 
generally on the subject, ist. That I did not make such 
inquiries as if difficulties would be sufficient to keep me 
back, were the path of duty in other respects plain ; but 
simply in order that I might have full materials for com 
paring this call with others that were given me, as from 
France, &c. 2d. That as devoted to the missionary work 
I felt that unless it appeared that God detained me at 
home by some special call, I must go to some field where 
Christ had not been named, &c. In reply to this letter 
Mr. Hamilton wrote that he believed the difficulties of 
the Chinese language had been overestimated, but that 
they expected about the end of March from China Mr. 
Hugh Matheson, one of their committee, who would bring 
them full and recent information, and that this would be 
communicated to me. At this time I spent four weeks 
preaching in Bute and Arran, and on the loth of April 
I went to Edinburgh to preach in Mr. Moody Stuart s. 
The impression of my duty now became so strong that I 
felt I could no longer hesitate about signifying my willing- 

yEt. 31-32.] THE DECISION. 295 

ness to go, and on Monday I wrote to that effect. I saw 
that I would dishonour my profession of the gospel, and 
thus wound the honour of Jesus, if I seemed to linger any 
longer; and though I had not heard again from London, 
I felt that on general grounds, and taking even the most 
discouraging view of the case, it was my duty to go 
forward. The committee met on this very day, and so 
discouraging was the view given by Mr. M. of the field 
and of the missions there, as compared with our missions 
in India, that the committee resolved to recommend to the 
Synod about to meet at Sunderland the following Tuesday 
to give up thoughts of a mission to China, and begin in 
place a mission in Hindustan. When I heard of this 
decision, which the receipt of my letter did not seem to 
have altered, I was at a loss how to act, but saw that now 
matters were coming to a crisis, and that the issue would 
be either to shut up my path toward China or set me free 
from their call altogether. I did not feel any sympathy 
with their proposal to draw back, and fearing lest they 
might do so, and thus dishonour the command and 
promise of the exalted Jesus, I was the more pressed in 
spirit to go forward, that such a consequence might be 
avoided. I accordingly resolved to go up to Sunderland 
on the 2oth, and meet the Synod on the matter. I did 
so, and on Wednesday the 2ist I found that the Synod 
were bent on prosecuting the mission, and so on Thursday 
I was ordained to the work. ... In this manner 
from step to step my path has been hedged up in this 
important matter; and now I find myself in the midst of 
the great ocean studying Chinese, and having the prospect, 

296 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1846-47. 

if the Lord will, of spending the rest of my days in that 
vast empire of heathen darkness. The people that 
walked in darkness have seen a great light, and to them 
that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them 
hath the light shined. " 

One or two sentences from the ordinary entries in his 
journal will complete the history of this interesting junc 
ture, and throw some additional light on the circumstances 
of the call which now came to him, and of the posture of 
his soul towards it: 

The call to this work came to me some months before I had 
full light to comply with it ; but the way at last was made in 
all respects very plain. ... On Tuesday, April 9 th, I met 
in Glasgow James Denniston, returned from Jamaica, and on 
his way, if God will, to Constantinople as a missionary to the 
Jews. Thus, after so long an interval, we met again in the 
place where nine years before, at the University, he had given 
himself to the Lord to go to the circumcision, and I to go to 
the Gentiles. Having been so long engaged in other work, we 
had now the near prospect of entering on the fields in regard 
to which the vows of God were upon us. It was a confirm 
ing interview. To sovereign grace be the praise the end 
less, unutterable praise ! . . . I came up to Sunderland to 
Confer upon the matter," and "found to my joy that the mind 
: the Synod was to > forward; and I being now ready, and 
my way hedged in, I was next day ordained according to 
Acts xni., and the day following I was in London. The Pres 
bytery of Newcastle ordained me-the only one within whose 
ids I had previously laboured; Dr. Paterson presided 
(m his own church we were met), being the only minister 
laming in his place of those with whom I had laboured in 
:c.; William Chalmers 1 preached at the ordination, 

1 Now the Rev. Professor Chalmers, D.D., of the English Presby 
terian College, London. 


being not only my cousin, but a minister born at Malacca, 
the centre of the early Chinese mission under Dr. Milne, &c. 
These were interesting coincidences ; and still more so was 
the fact that Dr. Morrison, the first evangelical Chinese 
missionary, whose Chinese Bible I am now studying, was 
the son of an elder in the English Presbyterian Church, and 
was brought up as a Christian in the High Bridge Church, 
Newcastle-on-Tyne, where, in 1841, I laboured for three 
months, little thinking of such a position as that which I now 

My readers will willingly linger a little longer in the 
retrospect of this memorable ordination solemnity, which 
formed so important an era in the history of missions to 
the far East; and with this view will read with interest the 
following lines written at the time by an eye-witness, 
himself a devoted friend of the Chinese cause, and a deep 
sharer in all the hopes and fears and prayerful aspirations 
of that solemn time : 

" By far the most solemn and striking matter at the meet 
ing of Synod has been the setting apart of William C. Burns 
as a missionary to China. Who could have believed that 
such would have taken place only two days before? Such an 
ordination has scarcely ever if ever taken place. It is 
perfectly marvellous. The thing was done suddenly (2 Chron 
icles xxix. 36), yet I cannot think hastily, for God hath evi 
dently been preparing his servant for it these months past. 
The more I reflect upon all the circumstances since the time 
of our first speaking to him on the 2ist December, when we 
told him of the strait in which the Church was for want of 
missionaries to China, up to the decision of the Synod on the 
2 1 st April to ordain him the very next day, the more I am 
amazed at the wondrous things which have come to pass, and 
cannot doubt that God has been in them of a truth. 

"On the 2 1st December, 1846, Mr. Burns was much at a loss 

298 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1846-47- 

as to the future; but seeing no open door, and no special call 
to labour at home, he placed himself in the hands of the 
Foreign Mission Committee to go to India, his original des 
tination. The committee were obliged, from the state of their 
funds, to refuse his services. Shortly afterwards Mr. James 
Hamilton wrote to him, asking if he would go in the service 
of the English Presbyterian Church in the mission proposed 
to China. This was made the subject of much thought and 
prayer, and it was long before he could at all discover the 
path which the Lord was indicating in the matter. Dr. Dun 
can strongly urged him to go; others as decidedly dissuaded 
him, and endeavoured to show to him that Scotland had still 
claims upon him. He himself inclined to go for a time to 
the Continent, and it was long before he could see that he 
had any call from the English Presbyterian Church, or that 
China was the field to which he should devote himself. On 
the loth April he was still in darkness; on the nth he preached 
in Edinburgh (St. Luke s), from Jeremiah xv. 16, and John xii. 
36, Walk while ye have the light. Light dawned upon him 
that day ; his heart was enlarged towards the heathen ; his 
prayers were full of pleadings on their behalf. Next morning 
he came to breakfast, and to our utter amazement told us he 
no longer saw his way to refuse the call, and intended to write 
to London to that effect that day. A note received the fol 
lowing morning mentioned that he had done so. His desire 
was to have a conference at the meeting of Synod the follow 
ing week at Sunderland, when future plans might be decided 

" The very day he wrote his note, placing himself at the dis 
posal of the church for China, the Foreign Mission Committee 
had a meeting, when it was decided to abandon China to 
undertake Central India instead. The information which the 
Committee had received regarding the number of missionaries 
already in the field, the difficulty of acquiring the language, 
and the country being still so generally closed, led to that 
conclusion. Mr. Burns was informed of that decision. An 

jEt. 31-32.] LETTER OF AN EYE-WITNESS. 299 

elaborate report was drawn up in his best style by Mr. 
Hamilton to lay before the Synod. 

" Tuesday morning the 2Oth April, at nine o clock the com 
mittee met in Sunderland. After much consultation the 
brethren came to one mind, that we must not abandon China 
the Church was committed to it and Mr. Hamilton was in 
structed to draw up an entirely different report. No com 
munication had been received from Mr. Burns; but the Church 
resolved that its duty was to keep by China, and to prosecute 
the missionary work there, as had been resolved upon two 
years before. Mr. Burns arrived in Sunderland the next 
day. His mind was unchanged. China was still his field, 
whether the Presbyterian Church abandoned it or no; and he 
was not a little amazed when he heard of the proceedings in 
committee the preceding day. 

" The new report was read in Synod ; Mr. Hamilton spoke 
and others followed. Mr. Welsh was asked to pray for guid 
ance in the matter, and Mr. Burns was then invited to address 
the brethren. He did so; giving an account of his early life 
his dedication to the missionary work his arrest in Scotland, 
when the Lord gave testimony to the word of his grace, and 
the reasons for the resolution now formed. The people were 
much affected, as was the speaker ; he was obliged frequently 
to pause, and at last to stop altogether. A meeting for con 
ference was shortly afterwards summoned, at which he fully 
opened up his wishes in the matter, especially as regarded 
ordination. He wished to go forth only as an evangelist, not 
to administer sacraments; Christ sent me not to baptize, but 
to preach the gospel. Acts xiii. was read ; Mr. P. L. Miller 
prayed; and after much discussion it was resolved that he 
should be ordained the next day at ten o clock, and proceed 
to China forthwith. 

"The ordination services took place in a church in which 
he had often preached, and by a Presbytery (the only one in 
England) within whose bounds he had laboured for several 
months with no small success a Presbytery from which 

300 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1846-47. 

Morrison also went forth, for his father was an elder of High 
Bridge Church, Newcastle; and not the least remarkable coin 
cidence was the fact that the minister who preached had been 
born and baptized in China. The service was commenced 
by the moderator, Mr. Anderson, giving out Psalm Ixxii. 
8-1 1. He read Acts xiii., and sung Paraphrase xxiii. 11-15 : 

Lo ! former scenes, predicted once 

Conspicuous rise to view; 
And future scenes, predicted now, 

Shall be accomplish d too. 
Sing to the Lord in joyful strains! 

Let earth his praise resound, 
Ye who upon the ocean dwell, 

And fill the isles around ! 

O city of the Lord ! begin 

The universal song ; 
And let the scatter d villages 

The cheerful notes prolong. 
Let Kedar s wilderness afar 

Lift up its lonely voice ; 
And let the tenants of the rock 

With accents rude rejoice ; 

Till midst the streams of distant lands 

The islands sound his praise ; 
And all combin d, with one accord, 

JEHOVAH S glories raise. 

The prayers were remarkable for enlargement and fervency- 
bearing upon every point connected with the solemn work of 
the day. Mr. Chalmers took as his text John xix. 30, It is 
finished ; and viewed the words, ist. In reference to God 2 d 
to man-closing with an application to the occasion-what 
was left for Christ s disciples to do. The ordination service 
was conducted by Dr. Paterson with extreme simplicity and 
apostolic fervour. After the questions had been satisfactorily 
nswcrcd, Mr. Burns knelt down-Dr. Paterson prayed, and 
laid hands on him-as did the other ministers, and so the 

JEt. 31-32.] ORDINATION CHARGE. 301 

first missionary of the English Presbyterian Church was set 
apart by the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery. The 
charge followed, which was suited to the occasion, and suited 
to the man to whom it was addressed. Dr. Paterson said, 
This is a very solemn occasion to us, and it is also a very 
solemn occasion to you, dear brother. You yesterday told us 
how the Lord had directed your heart to offer yourself for this 
work, and to respond to the call of the Church to go forth 
unto the Gentiles. You told us that you did not require to 
return to your home, but were ready to set out with your 
little scrip on the morrow. And now, I would address to 
you the words of the Lord to Saul, Rise, brother, stand 
upon thy feet, &c., Acts xxvi. 16-18. You have seen what 
few of us have ; you have seen in the past the Spirit of God 
going forth in his wondrous power, giving testimony to the 
word of his grace, and the spirits of men bowing before him 
as mighty trees shaken by the wind. You have seen whole 
multitudes awed by his presence, and constrained to acknow 
ledge that the Lord was revealing himself of a truth. Have you 
not seen these things? Can you not testify to them? The 
Lord hath now called thee for this purpose, that you may go 
forth a minister and witness of those things which thou hast 
seen. While yet a stripling, he chose you for a great work, by 
which he designed to prepare a people for a great event, and to 
bring many forth to testify for the Lord Jesus Christ as the 
great and only Head of the Church. But he also sends you 
forth to testify of those things in the which he will appear unto 
thee in which he will YET appear unto thee, delivering thee 
from the people and from the Gentiles, unto whom now he 
sends thee. Yes, brother, he has been preparing you for 
another work, and he will go before you to open up the way 
and guide you in all your steps. Verse 18 was then com 
mented on by Dr. P. Dr. P. continued: I charge thee there 
fore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge 
the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 
preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, 

302 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1846-47. 

rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and doctrine. For the 
time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine ; 
but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, 
having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from 
the truth, and shail be turned unto fables (2 Timothy iv. 1-4). 
Yes, soon, very, very soon the time will come when they will 
not endure sound doctrine ; for they have naturally itching 
ears, and turn away from the truth. But watch thou in all 
things, endure affliction, do the work of an evangelist, make 
full proof of thy ministry. 3 

" If nature be shrinking within you, if you feel yourself very 
weak in the contemplation of this great work to which you 
have been set apart, let me direct you to another passage 
(Matthew xxviii. 18-20), ALL power is given unto me in 
heaven and in earth. Go ye THEREFORE. Yes, he has all 
power and all authority, and must reign till he hath put all 
enemies under his feet. The earth is the Lord s, and the ful 
ness thereof. He is King of nations as well as King of his 
Church; he has power to protect and uphold, and he will de 
liver you from the nations unto whom now he sends you Ah ! 
look to him-to him alone. You may see the stars shining 
around you, you may think of many a bright light who has 
gone before into the dark places of the earth ; but let me counsel 
you to turn from these, and look to Jesus. He is now on the 
throne, he will shield you, he will watch over you, he will send 
down an abundant unction on your soul, he will supply all your 
ed. Go forth then in his strength. Remember that God 
hath given the heathen to his Son for an inheritance- re 
member that Jesus hath promised to be with you alway even 
unto the end of the world. Go forth even as a little child, 

by Him who walketh in the midst of the seven golden 
candlesticks, and who holdeth the stars in his right hand 
May thy dwelling henceforth be in the secret place of the Most 
gh and thy lodging under the shadow of the Almighty ! > 

Tins brief sketch gives only an idea of the style of the 
address, which was listened to with great attention and under 

JEt. 31-32.] HIS DEPARTURE. 303 

deep emotion by many of the congregation in the crowded 
church. Psalm xcviii. 1-4 was then sung: 

O sing a new song to the Lord, 

For wonders he hath done : 
His right hand and his holy arm 

Him victory hath won. 
The Lord God his salvation 
Hath caused to be known; 
His justice in the heathen s sight 
He openly hath shown. 

He mindful of his grace and truth 

To Israel s house hath been; 
And the salvation of our God 

All ends of th earth have seen. 
Let all the earth unto the Lord 

Send forth a joyful noise; 
Lift up your voice aloud to him, 

Sing praises, and rejoice. 

"After the service, Mr. Miller, formerly of Dundee, and Mr. 
Irving of Falkirk accompanied him to Dr. Paterson s house, 
and were afterwards joined by Mr. Nisbet, &c., where prayer 
was made, and at four o clock Mr. B. left for Newcastle, and 
preached that evening in Groat Market Chapel. I joined 
him there at ten o clock. A considerable number were wait 
ing to bid him farewell. We went to the lodging, sung 
Psalm c., ALL people, &c., read Mark xvi., upon verse 3 of 
which he remarked how the women still went on, not know 
ing how the stone would be rolled away, and applied it to our 
duty in similar circumstances. We spoke of how marvellously 
the difficulties had been removed already in this matter. He 
was filled with astonishment at the way in which it had been 
gone about so little of man in the whole matter so little 
preparation in the sight of the world and the Church so 
harmonious. We prayed together and then parted. The next 
morning at five o clock, I heard his heavy foot pass my door 
in time for the train to London, on his way to China as the 
first missionary of the Presbyterian Church in England." 

304 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1846-47. 

It will have been observed that my brother in finally 
accepting the call of the Synod declared himself willing, 
without returning even for a parting visit to Scotland, to 
proceed at once to his distant sphere of labour. It is 
said that when publicly asked in presence of the court 
how soon he could be ready to enter on his work, he 
replied with prompt decision, "To-morrow." This resolute 
tone and attitude of spirit was eminently characteristic of 
him. As a man that warreth, he entangled not himself 
with the affairs of this life, and moved about ever as a free 
and unencumbered _ soldier, ready at a moment s warning 
to march at the Master s command to any quarter of the 
world. Amongst the memories of his old classic studies 
the miles expeditus^ was ever, as I remember, a favourite 
name and idea with him, and to that model did he ever 
strive to discipline and brace his spirit. Long as he had 
doubted, and patiently as he had sought and waited for 
light as to the will of God in this matter, now that that 
will to him was clear he was utterly without hesitation and 
without fear. Even the difficulties which stood in the 
way, and which at that very time had been so greatly 
magnified as almost to have postponed for the time the 
attempt to enter a field so unpromising, instead of daunt 
ing, only fired his spirit, and made him more impatient to 
press on, life a brave soldier rushing to the breach in 
rlorn hope. "This," writes he in his journal, "only 
strengthened my resolution to go forward, fearing lest the 
name of that Lord to whom all power is given in heaven 

u armour and so 

march or battle. 

JEt. 31-32.] FAREWELL TO HOME. 305 

and on earth might be dishonoured; and I came to Sunder- 
land to confer about the matter, when I found to my joy 
that the mind of the Synod was to go forward." Now 
then that the matter was decided, his voice was for imme 
diate action. The day before he had, I believe, left his 
father s house with the fixed resolution that so it should 
be. He did not say farewell to those that were at home 
in the house, but he none the less and solemnly took 
farewell. "I was," says an elder sister, "the only person 
at home when he left, our parents being both, I think, in 
the north. I remember Dr. Hamilton s letter earnestly 
asking him to be the pioneer missionary for whom the 
English Presbyterian Church had been so long seeking. 
This letter was followed by one from Mrs. Barbour, in 
which she reminded him that in an address to the 
Students Missionary Association in Edinburgh, he had 
said to this effect, that when young men gave themselves 
to the Lord for the work of the ministry, they were not to 
prescribe to him where their field of labour should be, but 
should be willing to go anywhere, even to China. I re 
member he smiled on reading this, and said he did not 
remember having said even to China, but went imme 
diately and looked at the address, and said, Yes it is 
even to China. Before receiving this call he was studying 
the Gaelic, and seldom had the Gaelic psalm-book out of 
his hand, but soon after this we saw that the Gaelic was 
laid aside and the Encyclopedia was brought out, and he 
was busy studying the Chinese characters. I don t think 
he gave a decided answer to James Hamilton before the 
meeting of the Synod at Newcastle; but having heard that 

306 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1846-47- 

some timid persons were daunted by some difficulties that 
stood in the way, he said, That s the very thing that 
makes my call clear to go, and at once packed his little 
carpet-bag to start for Newcastle. The day he went off 
he was long in papa s study in prayer, and then coming 
out he silently wrung my hand and looked solemnly round 
as if taking a farewell look of the house; he had his Bread- 
albane plaid over his arm, and after reaching the front 
door he turned and hung it up in the lobby, taking one 
belonging to his mother instead, and giving me an expres 
sive look as he did so. I was very much overcome, and 
watched his receding figure with the feeling that he would 
not return. I went into the study to give vent to my 
feelings, and found the Bible left open at Isaiah Ixiv., 
Oh, that thou would rend the heavens/ &c. On going 
up to the drawing-room I found the Gaelic Testament and 
psalm-book neatly put into one of the shelves, as if he 
had done with them, and I then said, William will 
return no more. In a very few days, as you know, it 
was all decided, and the first announcement we received 
was from Mr. Irving of Falkirk, who kindly came straight 
from the Synod meeting to give us the tidings." So he 
writes in his journal, the thread of which I now gladly 
resume: "I had fully, though not formally, taken leave 
of all friends in Scotland before coming up to the Synod, 
and therefore thought it duty to act upon the text, Let 
me first go and bid them farewell, &c., and without re 
turning back to hasten on my way. This view approved 
itself to others, and I hoped to have gone off at once 
through France, and to have been in China in July by the 

Jt. 31-32.] PARTING THOUGHTS. 307 

steam communication lately established. This was over 
ruled, however, on the ground that I would reach the 
field at a trying season, and by a trying route; and so it 
was resolved that I should wait for this present vessel, 
and in the interval visit the churches in this Synod. I 
have been accordingly in most of them Liverpool, Man 
chester, Birmingham, Brighton, London, &c. &c., and see 
much cause to adore the wisdom and grace of God in 
this delay. I do not hope again to see my dear parents 
before setting out; but my brother Islay and his wife from 
Dundee have come up to see me away, and were with me 
to-day along with two others occupied in my outfit (Mr. 
and Mrs. Ballantyne), when we took possession of my little 
cabin and of the ship for the Lord in the exercise of his 
worship. . . . My beloved parents still spared to us 
seem to rejoice in giving me up to the Lord for this 
honourable work. Yes, it is an honourable work, as 
Dr. M Donald of Ferintosh said to me in his own veteran 
spirit, when the Lord permitted me to meet with him once 
more in Glasgow at the late communion there. . . . 
Before leaving Scotland I preached in Bute, Arran, &c., 
and had many calls to other places ; but as no very special 
blessing seemed to attend the word, I did not feel myself at 
liberty to refuse a call to labour among the heathen, and 
that call came to me as one originally self-devoted to that 
work should the Lord call me. It is thus in one view a 
dark and solemn dispensation in my case to leave this 
land. I go away because, either through my sin or the 
people s, God s Spirit worketh not among us as in years 
past. But it may be that this is God s own way of shutting 

308 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1846-47. 

me out from the home field, and sending me far hence to 
other Gentiles. They essayed to preach the gospel, &c., 
but the Spirit suffered them not, and then the vision of 
the man of Macedonia appeared, and they went over to 
help them. Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord? 
A man s goings are of the Lord: how then can a man 
understand his own way? THOU wilt guide me with thy 
counsel, and afterwards receive me to glory. Hosanna ! 

In such a strain of exalted faith and hope, and with 
such solemn musings, alike of the past and of the future, 
he closed the eventful period of his home and colonial 
ministry, and turned his face toward those new scenes to 
which his divine Master was pointing the way. 




THE missionary s departure from England, though 
delayed in the manner above described, took place 
at last somewhat suddenly. The ship in which he was 
to sail, the Mary Bannatyne, was dropping slowly down 
the Channel under a light breeze towards Portsmouth, 
and it was expected that several days would elapse before 
we should have to join her there. He had accordingly 
made several preaching engagements for the intervening 
days, and was, on the evening of Tuesday, the 8th June, 
in the very act of entering the Scotch Church at Wool 
wich in fulfilment of one of these, when an express from 
London reached him, conveying the information that 
a favourable wind had sprung up and carried the ship 
by a rapid run to Portsmouth, and that not an hour 
was to be lost if he wished to join her before she sailed. 
He accordingly hastened at once to the railway station in 
hopes to catch the last train, but was, happily as it turned 
out, too late. Next morning he and I set out together, 
not without some fears of after all missing the passage, 
but happily arrived in good time. On reaching the 
harbour we saw the ship riding at anchor in the roads, 


and procuring a boat reached it in half an hour. Finding 
that the vessel would not after all sail till the evening, I 
resolved to remain on board, and return by the latest 
boat. We retired to the little cabin and spent the time 
in reading the sacred Word, and in pouring out our hearts 
in prayer, for the last time it might be in this world to 
gether. He read the iyth chapter of St. John, and the 
last of 2 Timothy from the loth verse to the end, accom 
panying the slow and interrupted reading with many 
gracious and quickening words out of the fulness of the 
heart. The latter passage especially he bade me mark 
and remember, and convey it to his friends and brethren 
at home as a parting message of love. Coming to the last 
words he paused for a moment and said : "The last words 
are, Salute Prisca, &c.; this you must do for me: for I 
could not write," and burst into a flood of tears. We 
wept together. In the course of the afternoon he had 
shut himself up for an hour or two for the purpose of 
writing, and I saw afterwards on the table a sheet of 
paper half-written addressed to his mother; but the effort 
had been too much for him, and he had given it over. 
After again joining in prayer we embraced and parted, 
he again and again exclaiming as he lay upon my neck, 
O! is it not blessed; is it not wondrous grace to be 
separated in this way, separated for such a cause and for 
such a work?" His last words were, "Remember our 
father and mother." As we pushed off from the vessel s 
side, he called after me and pointed to his Bible, which 
he held up in his hand, as if to say that there was the only 
thing worth living for in all the world, and the one ever- 

^t. 32.] THE "MARY BANNATYNE. 311 

lasting bond of union for those who are parted here. A 
fresh breeze sprung up ; the light cutter flew before the 
wind, and in a few moments we had left the vessel far 
behind us; but long as I watched its lessening form in 
the deepening darkness I seemed to see him standing in 
the same attitude still. I felt that I had parted not 
from a brother only, but from one far above me, a true and 
eminent saint of God. Just as we were nearing the shore 
they had drawn up their anchor and spread their sails to 
the winds. 

Three hours afterwards he was again in his cabin, 
resuming with more calm and collected thoughts the 
interrupted letter to his mother : 

" On board the Mary Bannatyne] off Portsmouth, 
June 9//z, 1847, 11.30 P.M. MY DEAR MOTHER, My 
embarkation has been at the last, as I. will tell in detail, 
rather sudden and hurried. I expected not to leave 
London until to-morrow morning, but the ship got quickly 
round to Portsmouth, and last night when entering the 
door of Mr. Thomson s church at Woolwich to preach, a 
messenger from London met me to say that I must get to 
Portsmouth without losing an hour lest the ship should be 
gone. I endeavoured accordingly to leave London by 
the last train, but was too late, and happily so, for in case 
I had got away I would not have seen I.j but as it was 
graciously arranged, I came away at seven A.M., and had 
J., I., and Mrs. I. to the station, and I. all the way. He 
was on board during most of the day, and left us in the 
evening. My heart was too full to put pen to paper at 
that time, and I left as I thought all news for him to give; 


but since he went away I find that by our pilot I may 
still send a few lines, which I cannot omit the duty of 
attempting. I have now entered on a new sphere of duty 
and trial, I mean on board ship. Much fidelity and 
wisdom are needed to be a witness for the Lord in such 
circumstances, and I have in this matter as well as with 
reference to ulterior designs much need of fervent believ 
ing prayer. Do not forget us. May all that "sail with us 
be given to Jesus. We have already begun worship in the 
cuddy, and I hope it may be continued throughout, if 
possible, morning and evening. I felt it a great privilege 
to have I. with me at the last. May this separation for 
the gospel be to each of us a blessing. Ah ! what grace 
is manifested in such a separation ! Why am I not, as 
many, going forth in search of mammon; or put to sea, as 
some are, because they are unprofitable even in man s 
account on land? Who maketh thee to differ? O! to 
live under the full influence of Christ s constraining love ! 
To us to live will thus be Christ, and to us to die will be 
gain. We know not the progress nor the end of this 
voyage, nor what news may reach us from Britain should 
we reach our destination. Yet I rejoice to go. I feel 
that I am where it is the Lord s gracious will that I should 
be, and I would join with all his people in praying, Thy 
will be done on earth as it is in heaven. All the ends of 
the earth shall yet remember and turn to the Lord; and 
11 the kindreds of the people shall do homage unto him; 
for the kingdom is the LORD S, and he is the Governor 
among the nations. On his vesture and on his thigh 
there is a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords! 

^Et 32-] CHINESE STUDIES. 313 

Now may the God of peace sanctify you wholly, and I 
pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be pre 
served blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus 
Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do 
it. Brethren, pray for us ! Salute all the brethren for us. 
Thus in haste again writes, dearest mother, your affection 
ate son, WM. C. BURNS." 

Such was his farewell, full alike of solemn tenderness, 
and of brave, resolute hopefulness, to his native land, and 
to the home of his birth and early years. The progress 
of his voyage, and his unwearied labours for Christ in 
the narrow sphere now meanwhile assigned to him, will 
be best followed in the words of his own journal, which 
again becomes more or less continuous : 

"At Sea, Wednesday, June 23^, 1847. It is now a fortnight 
since I embarked in this vessel; and thus far God hath gra 
ciously prospered our way. For a week after we set sail we 
were detained by contrary and, in general, stormy winds at 
the mouth of the British Channel, but since that time the 
weather has been delightful, and we have been wafted 
speedily on our way, so that to-morrow morning, if the wind 
continue favourable, we shall pass by Madeira. During the 
first few days I was rather sick, but I have been able from 
the beginning to do a little at my Chinese studies, and during 
the last few days my progress has been, I think, encouraging. 
We have had public worship every evening in the public 
cabin, and to-day I succeeded in getting it begun also in the 
morning. . . . 

"At Sea, lat. 23 south, long. 29 west, Wednesday, July 
28//Z. It is seven weeks this day since I came on board this 
vessel. Hitherto we have been all mercifully preserved, 
and have advanced steadily, though not very rapidly, on our 
voyage. Some of the crew have had illness, but they are 


again able for their duties. I have suffered a good deal, and 
still suffer almost daily, from nausea, which abridges my 
ability for close application to study. I am, however, able to 
do a little from day to day in acquiring the Chinese, and 
occasionally I make more rapid advances. The work is 
pleasant and profitable from the Bible being my text-book, 
and in consideration of the momentous end which I have in 
view. Morrison was enabled to accomplish a great work in 
preparing such a version of the New Testament as that which 
it is my privilege to study. I have felt much interested by 
his Memoirs, which I am again reading. He was a spiritual 
man as well as a man of strong natural parts, and was thus 
both naturally and by. grace qualified for the work of trans 
lation. . . . 

"I have been graciously permitted hitherto to maintain 
family worship in the cabin every evening, and generally also 
in the morning, although with occasional difficulty, the desire 
not being as yet very great. The illness of one of the seamen 
opened my way a good deal in the forecastle, and I now have 
worship there also at least twice a week. On Sabbaths all 
join with us excepting one or two. When shall the cry be 
heard among us : What shall I do to be saved? Yesterday 
afternoon we passed Trinidad, a very picturesque island, un 
inhabited except by a few goats and swine. It stands quite 
alone in the midst of this vast ocean. Should our voyage be 
favourable, we shall not again see land until near the Chinese 
seas. The Island of St. Paul s comes first in sight. I was 
glad to find on crossing the line that the heathenish practices 
which used to be common on shipboard, and of which Dr. 
Morrison gives an account in his journal forty years ago, had 
no place among us. All went on as usual, with only some 
passing allusions to the subject. Such changes among our 
seamen are hopeful. 

1 Do thou thy glory far advance 

Above both sea and land, Psalm xxxvii. 
"Lat. 33 south, Ion. 14 west. Thursday, August yh. This 

-^Et. 32.] A MAN OVERBOARD. 315 

morning at half-past four o clock, Thomas M Leod, an ap 
prentice in the ship, fell overboard and was drowned. They 
tried to render him assistance, but all was vain, as it was 
dark and rainy, and the wind was changing at the time. He 
was aged about seventeen, a native of Rothesay, and the son 
of a widow. The evening before last I had worship in the 
steerage or half-deck with him and some of the other men, 
and was led to speak specially of the danger of sudden death 
to which they were exposed. He seemed attentive, and 
answered me the question in the Shorter Catechism, l What 
is Prayer? I had also conversed and prayed with him pre 
viously when sick. This is all I can say of his case. He is, 
alas ! now numbered with those whom the sea will give up 
at the last day to stand before the great white throne. It is 
sad to see and _/<?/ how little this solemn event seems to affect 
us. Who can tell but it may be the precursor of other dis 
plays of the Lord s righteous hand? May I and others be 
taught to prepare for the Lord s coming ! I am still enabled 
to continue worship morning and evening (with occasional 
interruptions in the morning) in the cabin. In the half-deck 
and in the forecastle I have the fullest liberty to do all I can 
for these precious souls. I am sometimes refreshed in these 
exercises, though I cannot see any special evidences of fruit. 
Let us not be weary in well-doing. We are now about 
1600 miles from the Cape of Good Hope. The weather has 
been fine hitherto, but this being the winter season in these 
southern regions it is now becoming cold, and may be ex 
pected to be stormy. I go on pretty regularly with my 
Chinese, and find it gradually become more familiar, although 
it is evident from the nature of the language that it must re 
quire long practice to render it at all natural to a European 
mind and tongue. I occupy myself much in translating the 
English New Testament into Chinese, and comparing these 
rude attempts with Morrison s version. This I find an ad 
mirable method of mastering the substance of the language, 
although the peculiar Chinese manner of thought and expres- 


sion can only be fully attained from studying native authors. 
This I am also practising to a certain extent. . . . 

" Thursday, August ibth. Since the previous date we had 
some very stormy weather, with an intervening calm of some 
days. The wind, however, when strongest, was favourable, 
and has been therefore less severely felt. On Tuesday (24th) 
it blew almost a hurricane from the north-west. I was stand 
ing on the poop when a lofty wave broke over the vessel. By 
its force and the rolling of the vessel I was lifted from the 
deck, but having a firm hold I was mercifully preserved. My 
watch was filled with salt water, and the chain snapped. 
How in a moment might the pulse of life have been thus ar 
rested ! l Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is 
stayed on thee ; because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the 
Lord for ever; for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength. 
In the cabin our conversation occasionally turns upon the 
things of God. I have, however, more to do generally in 
witnessing for our God and Saviour s authority and grace by 
my own walk than by words. Indeed, when one is so closely 
connected with others as in the cabin of a ship, a holy and 
consistent deportment is indispensable in order to maintain 
without shame a verbal testimony for the truth. I have 
reason to bless the Lord for much of his comforting presence 
in this my little cabin, where I am so much alone, and also 
for timely aid in more public occasions. How holy and how 
useful is the Lord willing that I should be ! This is a solemn 
thought, involving an unknown amount of responsibility. 

Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name/ &c. One of 
my daily duties is to teach Dr. Morrison s little daughter to 
read. She had just got the alphabet, but is now making 
encouraging progress-an interesting child. She commits to 

emory verses of hymns, and has now got The Lord s my 
Shepherd, &c. Jesus, look on this child, for thy name s sake- 
Amen. For the last few weeks I have little nausea, and am 

)le to make encouraging progress in the Chinese. . . . 

"Entrance of Java Sea (opposite North Island], Satur- 

jEt. 32.] ANJER BAY. 317 

day night, October gt/i. I am now near the close of another 
week of mercy and faithfulness manifested toward me on 
the part of a redeeming covenant God. On Sabbath morn 
ing last we were in shallow water, but no land had been 
seen, the weather being thick. At ten A.M. the curtain was 
uplifted, and opposite my cabin window appeared the high 
land of Sumatra at the mouth of Sunda Straits. This joy 
ful sight at this moment served to unite the passengers in a 
short meeting for divine worship when there seemed little 
likelihood of their assembling, the steward having brought 
word that neither the captain nor any of the crew could attend. 
I sung Psalm cxv. 1-4, 10, read and commented shortly on 
Ephesians iii., and concluded with prayer. I did not go to 
dinner, as I wished to seek a right view of the sin of trampling 
on the Lord s-day, and to praise him for his great mercy in 
saving our ship s company from the temptation to violate it 
at Anjer, as they might have done. 1 ... On Tuesday 
morning we were within ten miles of Anjer, sailing slowly 
over a glassy sea covered with the canoes of the Javanese 
and Malays fishing, or bringing off provisions to offer for sale. 
Six or seven canoes came under my cabin-window to trade 
with the captain, &c. I looked out to them, and when they 
stroked their naked arms and breasts to intimate that they 
wished clothes, I could only smile, shake my head, and hold 
up an open book (the book of God), to let them know that I 
was come to teach them, and not to trade or clothe their 
bodies. They understood my meaning, and looked to me 
again and again smiling, as if well pleased; and one man put 
his hands together as if in the attitude of prayer. In the 
afternoon God sent us for a short time a favourable breeze, 
which carried us to Anjer Bay about five o clock ; but left us 
outside the anchorage, which, owing to the current, we did 
not reach until seven A.M. of Wednesday (October 6th). . . . 
I had many quiet opportunities of meeting the natives who 

1 It had been for some days anticipated that they would reach 
Anjer on the Lord s-day. 


came on board to trade. I particularly spoke to two Malays, 
Acsan and Cassiden^\\o> waited most of the day on the poop 
in charge of provisions which had been bought and sent on 
board. In compliance with their entreaties (they are contin 
ually begging, and understand a good deal of English here) 
I covered each of them with a long white shirt (the two made 
for me by Mrs. Hardy, my worthy hostess at Kingston, Upper 
Canada), and spoke to them as I best could of Jesus blood- 
washed garment of salvation, longing for the time when many 
of their nation shall be found sitting at Jesus feet as disciples, 
thus clothed and in their right mind. A subsequent request 
which they made for soap to keep their shirts clean afforded 
a new emblem by which to instruct them. I also met a Mr. 

S , second mate of the Regina of Bombay, a large vessel 

passing down from China. I found him to be a brother-in- 
law to Mr. Smith, 1 late Church missionary to China, whose 
book I have been reading with interest and profit. I gave 
him two religious books, with an inscribed promise to pray 
for him. May I remember and be enabled to fulfil all such 
engagements! . . . 

"Java Sea, Monday, October nth. I had opportunities of 
speaking further to some of the poor Malays, and learned 
from them a few words of their language, which seems easy 
for a European to pronounce. They seem a simple people, 
rather fitted to obey than to rule; but, as may be expected, 
they are awfully deceitful. When going to speak to some of 
them in a canoe close to the vessel, I saw sitting near me on 
the quarter-deck an old gray-haired man, unlike any person 

had before seen. I thought with myself who he could be, 
but, strange to say, never thought of China as his country 
until he came round to where I was standing, and I perceived 

is gray and scanty hair plaited into the tail and hanging 

down his back. He was not like any representation of the 

Chinese that I had seen, much Itssplumj and more intelligent, 

ie was the first of that great nation that I had seen in 

1 Afterwards Bishop of Victoria, Hong-Kong. 

JEt. 32.] MUSINGS ON THE PAST. 3 1 9 

person. I exchanged with him a few words in English, which 
he spoke very well, and when he learned that I knew a little 
of Chinese, he took out a paper (a receipt for goods that had 
been bought from him) written in English and Chinese, to 
see if I knew the characters. I recognized some of them, 
and found that I had got the correct pronunciation. I went 
on deck soon after with a part of the Chinese Scriptures 
(New Testament), that I might show it to him, but he was 
just leaving the vessel, and our intercourse ended. I had at 
least mentioned to him the name of Jesus. . . . On Satur 
day forenoon we were in company of two vessels from Lon 
don to China, the barque Anne and Jane, which sailed a fort 
night before us, and the ship Marquis of Bute, which belongs 
to the same owners as this vessel, and sailed a month later. 
Her master, Captain Bannatyne, is from Rothesay. He was 
on board for some hours. It was indeed a cause of thankful 
ness that all this preceded the Lord s-day ; and that on Sab 
bath (yesterday) no one came near us to be a cause of temp 
tation. We had public worship on the poop as the day was 
fine. ... I preached from Matthew xxviii. 18-20, All 
power is given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye 
therefore, &c. And, lo ! I am with you alway, even unto the 
end of the world. Amen. I felt much supported in opening 
up briefly these mighty words, and had an opportunity of 
speaking to present circumstances among ourselves, while I 
showed on the one hand the duty of Christ s ministers, and 
on the other the duty and responsibility of those individuals, 
parents, masters, &c., to whom this gospel comes in obeying 
it themselves, and allowing it to have free course among those 
placed under them. The rest of the Sabbath I spent in my 
own cabin, and though there was no further meeting for wor 
ship on board, yet I trust the presence of God was among us. 
The name of the vessel that joined us on Saturday, Marquis 
of Bute, reminds me of circumstances worthy of being re 
corded, but hitherto omitted. In the month of March last I 
visited Bute and Arran, preaching in Arran to a divided 


people without a minister at Brodick, and in Rothesay to the 
desolate congregation of the lamented Peter M Bride, a faith 
ful and much-honoured servant of God, cut down in the midst 
of signal usefulness, particularly in his native parish of Knap- 
dale, in visiting which he died. When at Rothesay I was 
asked to preach in the parish of Kingarth at an inn in Kil- 
chattan Bay. The people came out well, many belonging to 
the Established Church, and some impression seemed to be 
made. One evening when preaching on the new birth, I 
made allusion to one whom I had known ten years before in 
their neighbourhood, who seemed evidently to have under 
gone that great change. This was Mr. John Smith, the 
Marquis of Bute s head gardener (at Mountstuart, some miles 
from where we were), who was a remarkable man of God; but 
was hated on this account, and at the time of the Disruption 
was cast out of his situation for following the protesting 
church. He had died only a few months before, and his 
memory was sweet to many and to me also, as I had often 
enjoyed, along with James Denniston, the solemn privilege, 
when we were teaching in Bute as tutors during the summer 
months, of visiting his abode and being benefited by his 
heavenly converse and prayers. Having been led to ask 
about his widow, I determined to call on her in returning to 
Rothesay, at the cottage which he had built in the midst of a 
garden which he had rented, and which he cultivated in his 
last days for his support. I somehow deferred, however, my 
intended visit until the last time that I passed from Kingarth, 
and this was well ordered. The last evening I was there the 
poor people insisted on my accepting a few pounds as a token 
of their gratitude, and to defray my expenses. I refused it 
as I was not in want, but had at last to yield. The following 
day I called on Mrs. Smith, found her unwell and troubled 
in other ways. Her husband had been always open-handed, 
saying the marquis would not see him want in his old clays, 
and now he was gone, and his poor widow said few inquired 
how she was provided for. She told me what I had not 


heard, that her husband held many meetings for prayer in 
Kilchattan Bay, and that when debarred by the factor from 
the people s houses, he hired the very room where I had 
spoken of him, and met the people there, and that he was in 
the act of beginning one of these meetings when the letter 
was put in his hands which dismissed him from his place. 
I had worship with her poor woman reading Psalm xxxvii. 
as applicable to his case, and then told her of the money that 
had been given me, and that I doubted not God intended it 
for her. She wept as she received it, saying, That will just 
free me from my difficulty. The term is near, and on Satur 
day I had to say to the collector for the schemes of the 
Church for the first time that I could give nothing. Of the 
other places which I visited when last in Scotland I spent 
the longest time in Montrose and neighbourhood, ministering 
to a vacant congregation in the town, and to Mr. Bain of 
Logic s congregation during his absence at Malta. No very 
remarkable blessing appeared in either place, but among Dr. 
Brewster of Craig s people especially the children in the 
school at the fishing village a gracious work of the Holy 
Spirit seemed to be going on, chiefly through the instrumen 
tality of the female teacher. Preaching there in the begin 
ning of winter I met their venerable pastor, 1 who seemed to 
be ripening for the Lord s garner, and was a few months after 
called away. I also there met once more that dear man of 
God, Andrew Bonar of Collace, who had been there before, 
but Barnabas-like, seeing the grace of God, he was glad, 
and returned again to exhort, instruct, and comfort them. 
At Logic I found Mr. T. usefully employed as teacher and 
elder, one of those who professed to have experienced a change 
of heart during the awakening at Aberdeen in 1840. When 
at Manchester in the month of May I found also Mr. M., 

1 The Rev. James Brewster, D. D. , brother of the late distinguished 
Sir David Brewster, and himself a man of fine culture as well as deep 
piety. He was our father s near neighbour in his first parish, and 
an endeared and valued friend. 



converted at Dundee, and Mr. J. from Perth, both employed 
as missionaries, and coming forward to the ministry. May 
all such prove to be indeed living branches of the true Vine, 
and bear much fruit by abiding in Him ! 

"Monday, October 2$th. Since the previous date I have 
been able to do comparatively little at the Chinese on ac 
count of the heat, which has been very great and oppressive. 
We have made good progress during the last week, and are 
now about seven hundred miles only from our destination. 
We are to-day, however, nearly becalmed, and the future is 
with our God, who reigneth over all. . . . Taking into- 
view the state of my own soul, and my future prospects in 
nearing the coast of China, I felt it duty to spend the rest of 
the day (Sunday, October 24th, after divine service) in my 
own cabin, and did not leave it to dinner or tea, or indeed 
at all. I trust my soul feasted in the Lord s presence, and 
upon his truth and grace. My heart visited many past scenes 
of labour and many far-distant friends and brethren in the 
faith of Jesus ; and I enjoyed more than usual liberty and 
depth both in confessing sin and in pleading for grace to 
myself and others. ... I have often found of late the 
chapters in Mr. M Cheyne s Calendar for the daily reading 
of the Scriptures exceedingly suitable to my wants. His 
Memoir and Remains also I find now more valuable than ever. 
I am reading also again, and with new interest as we approach 
the scene of his labours, the memoirs of Dr. Morrison the 
Chinese missionary. The earlier part of these memoirs 
especially contains a precious development of his very genuine 
and eminent spiritual character. He appears to have been 
indeed an upright servant of the living God. Oh ! for grace 
to follow in this respect in his footsteps. Dr. Milne was a 
precious man of God, and his Chinese tracts some of which 
I have seem to be of much value. In these, his works, I 
doubt not, will follow him. His life by Philip has too much 
of Dr. Philip and too little of Dr. Milne to possess all the 
interest and importance which might belong to such a work. 


And yet some of the biographer s views seem striking and 

" Monday, November %th. Subsequently to the previous 
date for about ten or twelve days we had calms or very light 
winds, so that we made little progress except to the eastward. 
The captain was glad at getting so far to the east (close to 
the coast of Luzon, a large island belonging to the Spaniards, 
in which Manila is the chief port), as he counted on meeting 
the north-east monsoon, and so running direct across towards 
the north-west to Hong- Kong. But how short-sighted is 
human wisdom even in these natural things ! On Saturday 
night last it began to blow a gale which continued to increase 
during the whole of Sabbath, and since this morning has 
been so very severe that some part of the main-mast has been 
blown away, and until this moment (half-past eight o clock 
P.M.) we are running under bare poles, i.e. unable to carry 
the smallest sail, at the mercy of the winds and waves, or 
more truly at the mercy of that living God who bringeth the 
wind out of his treasures. During the day the wind was from 
the west, and we were fast drifting towards the land, which 
is thought to be very near. Had this continued our danger 
must have soon been imminent ; but as it is ordered in the 
Lord s mercy, the wind has gone more into the south, and 
though the storm still rages we drift rather towards our 
wished-for port, and the hope of deliverance gladdens every 
heart. I trust these things are ordered for spiritual good to 
some or many, as well as to manifest the glory of a present 
God. I have been kept in perfect peace hitherto, I trust, 
from having the mind stayed on the Lord. The Lord has 
also wondrously again begun to open a door among us for 
delivering the testimony of his truth. On Thursday week I 
found unexpectedly a favourable opportunity of asking again 
that public worship should be resumed; 1 and had the request 
granted cordially, although I was still to be confined to 

1 There had latterly been less liberty in this respect than he had 
at first hoped. 


worship in the cuddy, and not to go into the forecastle. I took 
the liberty thankfully ; but again renewed my protest against 
the restriction. Worship accordingly was held every night 
until this storm began, which made yesterday a silent Sabbath; 
and this evening, when I did not think of proposing worship, 
it was requested for the first time by one of the passengers. 
Thus I trust the truth is gaining ground among us. The 
moral atmosphere of our society has been for weeks past a 
good deal purified. Sung Psalm xlvi.; read Isaiah xxvi. 

" Tuesday Evening, November qth. During last night the 
storm abated, and this morning revealed the land very near 
about twelve or fifteen miles off. Had the storm overtaken 
us fifteen hours sooner our peril must have been imminent, 
as we were then within six or eight miles of the shore ; and 
as it was, had the wind not changed from west to south we 
must soon have been in great jeopardy, and in still greater 
suspense and alarm. We have been during to-day advancing 
prosperously on our course, and I do trust that that almighty 
and holy Being whose mercies have been so great has still 
greater, even saving mercies in store for many among us. I 
am encouraged to hope this more than before, after having 
been much cast down about an hour ago. No one came at 
worship time, and the captain came in, looked at the baro 
meter, and went on deck. I had gone into my cabin, and 
was spreading the matter before the Lord when the steward 
came to tell me the captain was waiting for worship. We 
had only him and Dr. Morrison, but the meeting was sweet; 
portion in order, Cornelius and Peter, &c. opening of the 
door of faith to the Gentiles, Acts x. ; and from some conversa 
tion after we had concluded I entertain the hope that I may 
soon have full liberty as before to visit among the crew. 
Should it be so, may the Holy Spirit be present giving liberty 
to preach Jesus crucified for sin as the refuge for dying souls, 
and spiritual liberty to every soul to receive him as a Saviour 
and Lord unto eternal life! Jesus hath the key of David. 
He openeth and no man shutteth. It is five months this day 

^Et. 3 2.] ARRIVAL AT HONG-KONG. 325 

since I came on board this vessel. The Lord hath been 
gracious and true! 

"Hong-Kong, Tuesday, December 7th. After the storm of 
November 8th we had favourable winds, and anchored in 
Hong- Kong Bay at midnight on Saturday the I3th. On 
Monday I came on shore, meeting a very kind and Christian 
welcome from the friends of the gospel here, and finding 
such doors of useful labour immediately opened to me, as 
confirm me in the soundness of those convictions of duty 
which brought me here. I am most comfortably boarded 
with a Mr. and Mrs. Power, close to the mission premises 
of the London Society. Mr. Stevenson 1 has been prevented 
from coming out to minister to the Presbyterians here, and 
this gives me a greater hold of my own countrymen, to whom 
I have opportunity of preaching once every Lord s-day in 
the London Society s chapel. My progress in Chinese is 
slow compared with my desires ; but still I hope encourag 
ing considered in the view of the difficulties of this very 
peculiar and hard language. On my arrival I was permitted 
once more to hear from my beloved parents all well. Our 
deliverance from the perils of the deep appears now the 
greater, since we have heard within the last few days that the 
Anne and Jane, from London, with which we were in com 
pany in the Java Sea, was on the 8th ult. driven on shore 
near Manila and totally lost. All, however, were saved except 
one of the crew and a passenger, Mr. Rogers from Edinburgh, 
who were washed off a raft to which they had betaken them 
selves, and were drowned. Another vessel also narrowly 
escaped, getting into Manila with the loss of all her masts." 

1 The Rev. George Stevenson, now of Pulteney Town, Wick, an 
early and much valued friend, who had been invited to undertake 
the pastoral charge of the Free Church congregation at Hong-Kong, 
but had been by providential circumstances prevented. 




proper is a compact territory. You would 
only need to cut off a few projections and fill 
up a few indentations in order to bring it into either a 
circle or a square ; for its length and breadth are nearly 
equal. It includes more than a million square miles; and 
lying between the twentieth and forty-second parallels 
of northern latitude, it enjoys on the whole an excellent 
climate. Two noble rivers 1 flow down its centre, and 
fertilize the most populous regions in the world. The 
ocean, sprinkled with islands, washes its eastern and 
southern coasts. The mountains of Thibet are its western 
barrier; and on the north it is still guarded by a wall 
thirteen hundred miles in length, which it cost the united 
labours of the nation to erect two thousand years ago. 
Over this wall or over these mountains, you instantly 
land on bleak deserts and barren wastes; and it is no 
wonder that in contrast with the encircling solitudes, 
the Chinese should have called their teeming soil, The 
Flowery Land. 

1 The Hwang-ho and Yang-tze-Keang, the "Yellow River" and 
the "Son of the Ocean." 


" Wide as the surface is, the swarming inhabitants re 
quire it all. From the safest calculations, as the imperial 
census, the present population cannot be less than three 
hundred and sixty millions, or a third of the world s in 
habitants. To stow away such a multitude needs the 
utmost economy of room; and in its expedients for squeez 
ing existence into the smallest possible compass, the 
Chinese continent resembles the cabin of a ship. Crops 
are grown in places where you would think none but the 
birds could have planted them; and in their anxiety to 
leave every inch available for culture, they contrive to 
put past themselves and their families in all inconceivable 
corners. They cannot double their area, but their genial 
sky allows them to double their harvests by sowing two 
crops in the year; and as land is so precious, many of 
this evenly-minded and compressible people are content 
to live on the water. Most of their rivers are strewed with 
these floating cottages." 1 

But in truth the crowded life of the Chinese people is 
due not so much to the narrowness of the land, as to the 
variety of its surface. The sterile and inhospitable char 
acter of a large part of the empire compresses a popula 
tion which on the average is not more dense than that 
of England into a comparatively limited space. To the 
west are vast mountain ranges, with giant peaks, frowning 
gorges, and forests of cedar and of pine ; in the centre is 
a hilly region, gradually softening down into those gentle 
breezy slopes on which the tea plantations flourish; while 

1 China and the Chinese Mission, by the Rev. James Hamilton, 
pp. i, 2. 


to the east and seaward there stretch out wide and fertile 
plains, studded with towns and villages, and cultivated 
every inch like one vast garden. It is this last region 
that constitutes that teeming hive of human life with 
which we are familiar, and of which alone till recently we 
could be said to possess any authentic knowledge. 

The people are quiet, industrious, orderly, mechanically 
civil, and artificially refined, deeply sunk indeed, like all 
heathen nations, in ungodliness and sin, but addicted 
rather to the quieter than the ruder vices. They are 
intensely sensual, but not fierce or cruel; though the very 
apathy and shallowness of their nature renders them on 
occasions singularly reckless of the shedding of blood 
They love their children, and have more than any other 
heathen people of the sentiment of home and family life; 
and yet the inconvenience of an overcrowded country 
induces them to expose by myriads their female offspring. 

Their religion is a strange medley of diverse creeds, 
dwelling together in peace, and blending more or less 
together in the ideas and life of the people. " The first 
of these was founded by Confucius in the sixth century. 
It is the religion of the literati, and of the present emperor; 
but there is no reason why it should be called a religion, 
except that its votaries believe in nothing besides. It 
consists of a few moral and practical maxims, and evades 
the existence of God and the immortality of the soul. 
The Confucians are the atheists and the philosophic 
utilitarians of China. Next comes the Taou sect, whose 
founder, Laou-tsze, lived in the days of Confucius. Un 
like the Confucians, who believe in nothing supernatural, 


the followers of Laou-tsze have peopled earth and air 
with all sorts of spirits and demons. They deal in magic, 
and are constantly consulting maniacs and others whom 
they deem possessed; and it used to be their great problem 
to discover the elixir of immortality. They are the fana 
tics of China. And then we have a sect not of Chinese 
but Indian origin, and far more popular than the other 
two, the Buddhists. The object of their ambition is to 
lose all personal identity, and be absorbed into Buddha. 
Contemplation and abstraction of mind are their highest 
enjoyments, and to lose all contact with earthly things 
to live without looking, speaking, hearing, or smelling/ 
is the nearest approach to perfection. They are the 
mystics and ascetics of China." 1 Such as it is, the religion 
of this strange and singular people obtrudes itself every 
where. The land teems with images. " Their temples, 
houses, streets, roads, hills, rivers, carriages, and ships, 
are full of idols; every room, niche, corner, door, and win 
dow, is plastered with charms, amulets, and emblems of 
idolatry." 2 

Add to these particulars one or two characteristic 
features more, their singular reverence for the tombs 
and for the memories of their ancestors, their ancestral 
tablets and ancestral religious rites; their one written, 
and their many spoken, languages ; their universal system 
of education and of literary examination and degrees, upon 
which, by a remarkable anticipation of our recent civil 
service reforms, the appointment to all public offices of 

1 China and the Chinese, pp. 9, 10. 

2 Medhurst s China, p. 219. 


trust and profit depends; their strange and whimsical, but 
often rich and showy costume the tails and silk robes 
of the men, and the cramped feet of the women; their 
eager curiosity, especially in the inland districts, about 
the persons and the movements of strangers, making the 
hapless traveller often ten minutes after his arrival the 
centre of an excited crowd, which fills doors and windows, 
and almost stops the traffic of the streets ; their fortune 
tellers, their story-tellers, their jugglers, and their rude but 
vastly popular stage-plays, held in the open air, at the ex 
pense usually of some rich citizen, and open to all comers; 
their pleasant life in canals and rivers, in boats which 
serve often for weeks together both for locomotion and 
lodging, and which, moored close to the gate of some 
populous town or city, make the stranger at once at home 
in the place of his sojourning; their multitudinous and 
meaningless religious ceremonies, in which there is scarcely 
anything of religion or religious belief; and in fine, their 
measurement of time not by weeks but by the periodical 
recurrence of market-days, evermore painfully reminding 
the missionary that he dwells in a Sabbathless land; and 
we shall be able to form a tolerably distinct idea of the 
circumstances and scenes in the midst of which we have 
now to place ourselves, and with which, in the course of 
our narrative, we shall become more and more familiar. 

Towards this vast and interesting field the missionary 
spirit of the Christian Church was at a very early period 
directed. The charm of mystery and distance exercised 
a certain fascination over imaginative minds, in behalf of 
a people whose peaceful industry and prosaic artificial 


civilization lent to them little of the interest of romance. 
Ardent spirits longed to pierce the barriers of that great 
unknown land, and to claim the first kingdom of the far 
east for Christ. As early, probably, as the seventh 
century, certainly as early as the eighth, Christian mis 
sionaries from the Nestorian Churches in Persia found 
their way to China, and sowed the seeds of a Christian 
belief and profession, the traces of which survived, though 
with little power or purity, for several centuries. 1 During 
the twelfth century the western world was filled with 
rumours and tales, probably not altogether without a 
basis of truth, of a Christian king ruling over a Christian 
people in the country immediately to the north of China; 
who under the name of Prester John exercised the func 
tions at once of priest and king, and handed down both 
name and office to his successors for several generations. 
During the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries we trace 
the footsteps of pioneers of nobler mould and of more pure 
and enlightened Christian views, conspicuous amongst 
whom was the Franciscan John de Monte Corvino; a man, 
says Neander, "in whom we recognize the pattern of a 
true missionary." After labouring for a season in Persia 
and India, he found his way at length to Pekin, 2 obtained 
influence and favour at the imperial court, translated the 
New Testament and the Book of Psalms into the ver 
nacular tongue, laboured for the education of the young 
and the rearing up of native missionaries, baptized six 
thousand converts and founded two churches, one of which 
was so near the royal palace, that the emperor could hear in 

1 See Neander s Church History, v. 115. 2 Anciently, Camlxilu. 


his chamber the voices of the children singing the praises 
of God. While yet only fifty-eight years in age he had 
already grown gray in the midst of labours and hardships 
whose record is on high, and the results of which the day 
shall declare. 1 He was no unworthy precursor to another, 
bearing a still more illustrious name, who appeared on the 
scene two centuries and a half later. In the year 1553 
the ardent and holy Francis Xavier arrived at the island 
of Sancian, on his way to the neighbouring coast of 
China, on the evangelization of which he had set his heart. 
After all his labours in India and Japan, he deemed that 
he had accomplished nothing unless he had unfurled the 
standard of the cross in the great eastern empire, and 
claimed possession of its vast domains for Christ. After 
manifold obstacles and difficulties he seemed at last on 
the eve of the accomplishment of his cherished purpose. 
From the little islet on the shore he could look across to the 
rocky coast of the land which he so ardently longed to 
enter, and was in daily expectation of a native merchant 
junk to convey him there. His purpose was to land fur 
tively under cloud of night; he was almost sure to be seized 
and imprisoned ere yet he had almost begun his work; 
but he would at least, he thought, have Chinese fellow- 
prisoners, and in their hearts he might sow the seeds of a 
harvest that should spring up after he was dead. But the 
great Master who so often accepts the purpose for the deed, 
and in whose vast field of labour "one soweth and another 
reapeth," had ordained it otherwise. While still waiting 
for the expected vessel, he was seized with a virulent 

1 Neander, vii. 76-77. 


fever, under which he sunk. "Stretched on the naked 
beach, with the cold blasts of a Chinese winter aggra 
vating his pains," he wrestled alone with the last enemy, 
yet his countenance was lit up with heavenly brightness, 
and tears of holy joy streamed from his eyes, as he 
exclaimed with his last breath, "O Lord, in thee have I 
trusted! I shall never be confounded." 1 The fallen standard 
was soon taken up by other and not unworthy hands. 
The Italian Jesuit, Valignano, halting at Macao on his 
way to Japan, cast his eyes wistfully towards the neighbour 
ing shores of China, still sternly closed against the gospel, 
and exclaimed, "O Rock, Rock, when wilt thou open!" 
Not satisfied with mere aspirations, he deputed two of the 
ablest and most devoted of his companions to attempt an 
entrance into the forbidden territory. The enterprise was 
successful. With that remarkable combination of zeal 
and subtlety which is characteristic of their order, they 
contrived to establish themselves on Chinese soil, first 
under the disguise of Buddhist priests, and then under the 
garb of Chinese literati; and a few years afterwards we 
find one of their number, Matthew Ricci, filling an im 
portant literary office at the capital, and high in the favour 
of the emperor, while labouring with devoted zeal for the 
propagation of the faith which he had come to preach. 
He died in 1610, amid the tears of his brethren and the 
reverential mourning of the entire community, having 
spent twenty-seven years of incessant labour in China, and 
leaving behind him more than three hundred churches in 
a land in which he had been in modern times the first 

1 In te, Domine, speravi; non confundar in setemura. 


Christian missionary. After him followed in succession 
Adam Schaal (ob. 1666) and Ferdinand Verbiest (ob. 
1688), men in every way worthy to tread in his footsteps, 
and to carry forward the work which he had so auspi 
ciously begun. Like him they were men of science as 
well as men of faith ; and as in his case, a position of influ 
ence and honour was speedily opened to them as savans, 
which would have been denied to them as missionaries. 
But though they were patronized and protected not for the 
sake of their message, but for their skill in arranging the 
calendar, casting cannon, and negotiating treaties, they 
seem never to have lost sight of the great purpose of their 
mission, for which alone they sought to live and were 
ready any moment to die. While themselves pleading 
the cause of Christ at the court and in the capital, they 
were enabled at the same time to stretch their protecting 
shield over their humbler brethren in the provinces, and 
to further the admission of fresh labourers within the 
jealously guarded bounds of the empire. Of the extent of 
their success we may form some estimate from the fact that 
in the single year 1671, in which, after a season of perse 
cution, their churches were again opened, but all attempts 
at conversion were prohibited, we find mention of no fewer 
than 20,000 baptisms; of its quality, however, in a scrip- 
-1 and evangelical point of view, it is more difficult to 
judge. It is impossible wholly to separate the character 
>f the men from the deadly poison of the system in which 
they had been born and bred, and which must have shed 
ts pernicious influence more or less into all their teach 
ing. Yet we are permitted to believe that the one foun- 


dation at least of saving doctrine really was laid. "Their 
earlier tracts," says Dr. James Hamilton, "are very different 
from the legendary stuff circulated in Popish lands. A 
missionary well acquainted with them says, On the Trinity 
and incarnation they are clear; while the perfections of the 
Deity, the corruption of human nature, and redemption 
by Christ are fully stated; and though some unscriptural 
notions are now and then introduced, yet all things con 
sidered, it is quite possible for humble and patient 
learners to discover by such teaching their sinful condi 
tion, and trace out the way of salvation through a 
Redeemer. And as some of their first missionaries were 
earnest men, and evinced their zeal in cheerful martyrdom, 
some of their converts appear to have been exemplary 
Christians." It is impossible, for instance, to read with 
out deep interest of the learned Mandarin Paul, so called 
because on his conversion he desired to be the apostle of 
his countrymen, and who henceforth lived only to advance 
amongst high and low the cause he loved: or of his 
widowed daughter Candida, who after providing for those 
of her own house, consecrated the whole remainder of her 
fortune to the service of Christ founding churches, printing 
Christian books, building hospitals for outcast children, 
teaching the blind story-tellers in the streets to tell, in 
place of their fabulous tales, the story of the Cross, who 
gained even from the emperor the title of "the virtuous 
woman," and "was bewailed when she died by the poor 
as their mother, by the converts as their pattern, and by 
the " missionaries as their best friend." 1 So we may 

1 Medhurst s China, 228. 


fondly trust that the unwearied faith and patience of so 
many devoted labourers, albeit with defective or erroneous 
views of the truth they loved, were not unowned by the 
Master, and that amid much earthly dross there may have 
been many grains of precious gold, which shall be found 
"unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of 
Jesus Christ." From the days of Verbiest until now, the 
Romish church has never been without its representatives 
in China. Of these the French missionaries De Fontaney, 
Gerbillon, Bovet, and Le Comte, with their successors 
during the i8th and ipth centuries, were especially dis 
tinguished for zeal, ability, and success. Hindered and 
interrupted often by imperial interdicts or open persecu 
tion, they still held their ground and laboured unceasingly, 
sometimes openly, sometimes secretly, for the propagation 
of the faith. At the time at which our narrative begins 
they numbered 170 missionaries and upwards of 200,000 
converts. Meanly as we may estimate the character of 
their work or the quality of its results, to them belongs 
the undisputed honour of having been first in the field, 
and of having held forth a bright example of faith and 
zeal, which the Reformed Churches were but too slow to 

In the year 1806 Robert Morrison, the first Protestant 
missionary to China, was set apart to the work, in Swallow 
Street Scotch Church, London, under the auspices of the 
London Missionary Society, and arrived at Macao on 
September 4th, 1807. "There, in a warehouse which he 
rented, he plodded on in his secret labours at the lan 
guage, hardly venturing out among the suspicious inhabi- 


tants, and hiding the lamp by which he studied behind a 
volume of Henry s Commentary. After ten years of toil 
he completed a herculean task, and printed in six quartos 
a Dictionary of Chinese; and after being joined by a like- 
minded labourer, Dr. Milne, had the happiness to trans 
late into Chinese the entire Word, which, by the amazing 
ingenuity and industry of a brother missionary, was 
printed in a new and beautiful style." He was a man 
indeed singularly fitted by the gifts alike of nature and of 
grace for the work which he had undertaken, and specially 
at the particular stage which that work had then reached, 
with "talents rather of the solid than of the showy kind; 
fitted more for continued labour than for sudden bursts 
of genius," and with a shrewd caution which was of great 
price in " a station where one false step at the beginning 
might have delayed the work for years." For eighteen 
long years he laboured on unobtrusively and unweariedly, 
himself but little seen, but his eye ever fixed on the 
Master and the Master s business. He died in 1834, 
having been preceded twelve years by his beloved brother 
and true yoke-fellow Dr. Milne. Though the time of 
fruit was not yet, they were honoured to gather some 
precious firstfruits of China unto Christ, conspicuous 
amongst whom were Leang Afah and Keuh Agang, 
who long survived them as consistent disciples and 
zealous and successful preachers of the gospel. But 
their work was that of pioneers rather than of cultivators 
of the land; gathering little fruit themselves, but pre 
paring the seed for many harvests yet to come. Their 
true monument is the Chinese Bible and the Chinese 



. College, 1 and the enduring memory of that "work of faith 
and labour of love and patience of hope" in the midst 
of all discouragements and difficulties, by which, though 
dead, they yet speak to all that follow after them, and 
which shall be remembered to their honour in that day 
"when they that sowed and they that reaped shall rejoice 
together." They will be ever recognized and honoured 
as the true fathers of the Chinese Protestant Missions and 
of the Chinese Protestant Church. 

With the opening of the five ports to foreign residents 
and foreign traffic in. 1842,2 just eight years after Mor 
rison had closed his work on earth, a great impulse was 
naturally given to the cause of Chinese missions, and re 
presentatives of all the great societies in Britain and in 
America speedily hastened to the field. Within four years 
there were already in China, or on the way to it, fifty 
Protestant missionaries. The field so long jealously 
guarded and hedged around was suddenly thrown open 

1 The Anglo-Chinese College founded at Malacca, in 1818 for the 
cultivation of English and Chinese literature, and thereby promoting 
the propagation of Christianity in the far East. Dr. Morrison him- 

If made the munificent offering of 1500 towards the carrying out 
this object, in which we must recognize the true precursor of the 
lucational missionary institutes originated by Dr. Duff in Hindu- 
stan twenty years later. 

2 By the treaty of Nanking, 1842, the ports of Canton, Amoy, Foo- 
Chow Nmg.po and Shanghai were opened, and Hong-Kong was 
ceded to Bntajn. By the treaty of Tien-sin, r8 5 8, the ports of 
Neu-Chwang, Teng-Chow, Tai-wan, Swatow, and Kien-Chow, and 
he nver Yang-tse-kiang up to Hankow were opened to commerce. 

By convention of Peking, l8 6o, Tien-sin was opened to trade, and 
Cowloon ceded to Britain 



and lay white unto the harvest, and eager reapers were 
hastening from every side to cut it down. 

Such were the main incidents in the past history of the 
work on which the subject of this memoir now entered, 
with the ardent zeal of a Xavier, with the patient con 
stancy of a Morrison, and with a consecration of heart 
and an abnegation of self equal to any of those who had 
ever trod that distant shore. 




FORTY years have elapsed," said the Rev. James 
Hamilton, in. his report to the Synod early in 
the next year, "since a young man, a native of Newcastle, 
and brought up in one of our Presbyterian Churches, 
effected his circuitous and almost clandestine passage 
as the first Protestant missionary to the Chinese empire. 
Arriving solitary on a shy and unwelcoming shore, with 
no Christian friend to cheer him, and no European arm 
to shelter him, that faithful servant of Jesus spent years of 
lonely and perilous toil in conquering a language with which 
scarce an Englishman had dared to grapple. But many 
a happy change, the harbinger of changes happier still, 
may thankfully be recognized in Mr. Burns entrance on 
his work. Proceeding boldly to his destination, an hon 
oured passenger in one of Britain s gallant argosies, and 
needing no alien interposition to smuggle the evangelist 
into a land which Britain then forbade the evangelist to 
tread, landing in open day, and beneath the glad assur 
ance of the Union banner, he found the missionaries of 
two hemispheres, as well as Chinese Christians, there be 
fore him. And whilst we would join our dear friend in 

JEt. 32-35.] FIRST WORK IN CHINA. 341 

commemorating these bright distinctions of his lot, we 
record with special thankfulness the progress which he 
has already made as a Chinese scholar. The wonderful 
labours of Morrison and his coadjutors notwithstanding, 
the language still remains of all human dialects the might 
iest barrier to intercourse ; . . . and with all the helps 
afforded by his predecessors in this arduous work, and 
with all the facilities for quiet and unmolested study in 
an English settlement, we fully reckoned that years might 
pass before Mr. Burns could make any practical essay in 
that appalling tongue. Already, however, before faith 
and energy its terrors seem to disappear; and although it 
is only a year since our brother began to apply his mind 
to the study, and though he had only been two months 
arrived when last he wrote we record it with joy and 
wonder he was already attempting to publish the Word 
of life in the speech of Sinim. Having obtained access 
to the prisoners in the public jail, he was enabled to read 
the Scriptures to them, and even to address them briefly 
so that they understood." 

To this last incident he thus refers in his journal of 
date January 4th, 1848: 

"During the past month I have been making some 
progress in the Chinese, and have had some opportunities 
of bringing into use the measure of knowledge already 
acquired. A fortnight ago Dr. Morrison (whose little 
daughter I still give a lesson to, and with whose Chinese 
comprador I read the Scriptures in English and Chinese) 
asked me to go and visit in the prison three Chinese cri 
minals under sentence of death for murder, and who were 

342 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1847-50. 

in deep distress and anxious to be visited by the ministers 
of Christ. Unable to do much, I felt called to do what 
I could; and as the execution of the sentence was delayed 
longer than usual in consequence of the absence of the 
governor, I had almost daily opportunities of meeting 
these poor men. I generally went alone, but at other 
times in company with the Chinese preacher Chin-Seen. 
They were very anxious to hear of the way of salvation 
through Jesus, and evidently strove to understand my broken 
Chinese. Although unable to say much to them I made 
them read with me Christian books, and on several occa 
sions I even joined with them in prayer, through the 
medium of their own tongue. They did not speak the 
Canton dialect, which I am chiefly studying, and this no 
doubt made my rude attempts less intelligible; yet I felt 
encouraged, and enjoyed, I think, something of the power 
of grace in praying with and for them. One of these 
poor men has received a commutation of his sentence." 

This first beginning of his work in the sphere of direct 
missionary effort is characteristic, and must have been 
peculiarly congenial to him. Like that divine Master in 
whose steps he walked so closely, it was ever his delight 
most of all and first of all to care for those for whom few 
else cared, to leave the ninety and nine in the safe and 
quiet pastures, and go to seek the utterly lost in the far 
wilderness. The publicans and sinners in the highways 
and hedges, the neglected crowds of railway labourers or 
factory workers, the soldiers in the rough barrack-room, 
or amid the terrible temptations of the great city streets, 
had ever, in his native land and in Canada, had a special 

Mt. 32-35.] FIRST WORK IN CHINA. 343 

attraction for him, as those to whom, as most needing, he 
owed the deepest debt of compassion and help. He 
loved to walk like Christ on the shady side of the world, 
and to be as a "brother born" to the sorrowful, the outcast, 
the forsaken. And so it was that in China by a singular 
coincidence it happened that his first care was directed 
to that very class to whom three hundred years before the 
apostolic Xavier had looked as the probable objects of 
his first missionary efforts only that now in these happier 
times, it was not needful to become a prisoner in order to 
become the teacher of prisoners. It was quite in the 
spirit too of his whole life thus immediately to begin his 
work with such imperfect means of communication as 
were then at his disposal, instead of waiting until a more 
perfect knowledge of the language should have given him 
the advantage of clear and fluent utterance. In haste 
to reach the souls of those he had come so far to seek, 
he was impatient of the last barrier that still separated 
him from them; and if he could not yet break down that 
partition wall, he might yet at least hold broken converse 
with them through those narrow chinks and openings 
which he had already made. He could speak only, 
indeed, with stammering words and broken sentences; 
but those stammering words and broken sentences might 
still convey some grains of the precious gold reflect some 
glimmerings of the eternal saving light and that infinite 
blessing he dared not even for a moment withhold. Be 
sides, while seeking to teach those poor prisoners the way 
of life, he would be at the same time learning something 
from them. He would sharpen and polish his rude in- 

344 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1847-50. 

strument in the very act of using it, exercise his stammer 
ing tongue and correct his broken sentences, while by 
their means he sought to instruct and comfort others. It 
was on the same principle that, as he tells us in his first 
letter from Hong-Kong, he from the first attended regu 
larly the daily Chinese service conducted by natives at 
the mission-house, and gave lessons in English to the 
boy that waited on him along with another, while " they 
repaid him with their Chinese, which he endeavoured to 
speak with them as best he could; sometimes succeeding 
in being understood, arid sometimes provoking a smile 
only." Dr. Hamilton I believe is perfectly right in attri 
buting his remarkable success in mastering the difficulties 
and disarming "the terrors" of this singular tongue mainly 
to the " faith and energy " with which he girded himself 
to the task. He had indeed naturally a more than ordi 
nary faculty for the study of language, and that faculty 
had at an early period received the very best discipline 
and training; but the natural faculty was more than 
doubled by the intense and concentrated energy with 
which, when called for by the highest ends, he used it. 
Here, as in everything else which concerned the service 
of his divine Master, whatever his hand found to do he 
did it with his might. As before in the case of the French 
in Canada, so here he might be said for the time to have 
almost wholly lived in the element of Chinese thought 
and Chinese speech. He spoke Chinese, wrote Chinese, 
Chinese, heard Chinese, sang in Chinese, prayed in 
Chinese. Far into the night sometimes might his voice 
be heard reciting aloud the words of life, or pouring out 

ffit. 32-35-] STUDY OF THE LANGUAGE. 345 

his heart before God in the broken accents of that strange 
tongue which for Christ s sake he had determined with 
as little delay as possible to make his own. Six years 
after this, as I heard recently from a relative, when on 
a visit to England, he surprised a company of friends 
by suddenly pronouncing the blessing before meat in 
Chinese, and then calmly repeating the same in English. 
It was only an extreme instance of that which was in 
reality the ruling principle of his whole missionary life. 
From the first and in everything "to the Chinese he 
became as a Chinese that he might gain the Chinese " 
lived in their world, thought their thoughts, spoke their 
words. It was thus alone, as it seems to me, that he 
was enabled in after-years, as the prompt and fearless 
pioneer of the missionary band, to make those rapid 
transitions from one sphere of labour to another, which 
required in each case the forgetting of one language 
and the learning of another. The acquiring of a new 
Chinese dialect was comparatively an easy task to him, 
because he lived habitually in a Chinese element, and was 
thoroughly imbued with the very spirit of all Chinese 
thought and speech. 

The following extracts from his journals and letters will 
still further illustrate the nature of his work, and the 
spirit which actuated him during the first, and necessarily 
in a great measure preparatory and tentative, part of his 
missionary life : 

"Hong-Kong, Dec. 27^/2, 1847. MY DEAR MOTHER, 
I am again allowed the opportunity of addressing you 
from this distant shore, that you may know something of 

346 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1847-50. 

what I am doing, and that I may find at last some vent 
for those feelings which the thought of those from whom 
I am so far removed awakens. I have been, since I last 
wrote, going on with my Chinese studies, and I desire to 
be thankful that I am enabled to make a little progress, 
while the difficulties that still remain to be encountered 
before I can attain to anything like a full mastery of the 
language, are so many that, were it not for the greatness 
of the end in view, I would be disposed to abandon the 
undertaking." Then after referring to his visits to the 
prisoners, "It is encouraging," he continues, "even already 
to be able to point even in a few expressions to the Lamb 
of God who taketh away the sin of the world to that 
Root of Jesse to whom the Gentiles are to seek and find 
his rest to be glorious. Among our own countrymen last 
Lord s-day was interesting, as that on which for the first 
time a congregation met here in connection with the 
Presbyterian Church. The place of meeting at present 
is central and convenient (an old bungalow, immediately 
behind the club-house); and though the numbers attending 
may not at first be very large, yet it is hoped that by the 
blessing of God this may form the beginning of that which 
shall issue in important results, both among the Chinese 
and amongst our own countrymen." 

To this congregation he continued to minister during 
the whole period of his stated residence in Hong-Kong, 
without, however, undertaking the task of constituting a 
regular church, or "entangling himself in any way that 
might retard his labours among the Chinese." Meantime, 
while his spare time and spare thoughts were given to his 

JEt. 32-35.] "HIS OWN HIRED HOUSE." 347 

countrymen, his main strength and his whole heart were 
still with those in whose behalf he had come, and with 
whom, in the whole circumstances of his life, he more and 
more identified himself. Leaving the comfortable lodging 
in a European family in which he had been at first 
received, he removed to a hired house of his own in the 
midst of the native population, where he might bury him 
self out of sight with Chinese companions and in a 
Chinese home. His mode of life there must have been a 
very humble one in the eyes even of his humbler neigh 
bours, if one may judge from a significant incident which 
he afterwards playfully told me. There had been some 
commotion in the neighbourhood in consequence of some 
petty robbery or other misdemeanour, and an excited 
crowd was passing before the door in eager pursuit of the 
culprit. " Oh ! you need not look there," cried one from 
amongst the throng, "it is only a poor foreigner" 

" Corner of Aberdeen Street, Queeris Road, Tuesday, 
February z^th, 1848. During these two months mercy 
has abounded towards me. May I have grace to bless 
and glorify the God of my life and salvation! In my 
work among the British population I have been in some 
degree encouraged, though not in any manner fitted to 
show me that they ought to be the principal object of my 
efforts to promote the kingdom of God. Our meetings 
on Sabbath continue rather to increase, but on week-days 
very few attend. Early in January I began to feel my 
need of having the assistance of some native of this 
province to read with me, in order that I might get 
acquainted with the colloquial dialect, and acquire as far 

348 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1847-50. 

as possible the right mode of intonating each word a 
point of the greatest importance in order to effective 
speaking, and one of the greatest difficulty. The Lord has 
graciously, I trust, guided me in this. A brother mission 
ary spoke of my want to Mr. Gutzlaff, who kindly fur 
nished me with a teacher, a young man from Canton city, 
whom I have found very suitable. He came to me on 
January 25th. After a week or two I found it would be 
desirable, in order to give full employment to my teacher, 
and also to open up my way into Chinese society, that I 
should get him if possible to open a small Chinese school; 
and I thought it would be well if I could get a house having 
accommodation for this purpose, and where I might my 
self live with none but Chinese around me, and so be 
obliged to speak the language at all times. It is in this 
view that I have taken the house in which I now am. I 
entered it a week ago (February 226), and found myself 
alone, with none but my two Chinese servants, to whom, 
however, I had been providentially directed, and whom I 
found willing from the first day to come and worship with 
me. We read and have continued to read together in 
Matthew s Gospel (Morrison s version), and I pray with 
them imperfectly. These beginnings have encouraged 
me. Who hath despised the day of small things? 
Yesterday my teacher came to live here, and he expects 
to be able to open a school in the lower flat of this house, 
which was formerly a druggist s shop, and is very suitable 
for this purpose, and also for collecting a small congrega 
tion, should the Lord incline them to come, and give fit 
ness to enter on the solemn work in a manner so public." 

t. 32-35.] "WHOM HAVE I IN HEAVEN BUT THEE?" 349 

But while he thus "thought it good to be left" amongst 
heathen strangers and amid strange associations and ways 
of life "alone," he still did not feel lonely. Here as else 
where to him one place differed from another mainly in 
the degree in which he possessed the felt presence of God, 1 
and enjoyed a holy freedom and enlargement of heart in 
His service. The chief effect of solitude was to bring 
him nearer to those from whom for the gospel s sake he 
had been so far separated, and to impart an increased 
tenderness and fervour to his affectionate remembrances 
and prayers: On the 28th March he writes to his 
mother : 

"After having had worship with my Chinese family 
(two servants, a teacher, and three boys) I take up my 
pen to endeavour to hold some kind of communication, 
from this distant region of the earth, with those who 
are dearest to me on it. I feel, as I did last time, 
the want of hearing from any of you; but I have been 
comforted in some degree by the absence of any bad 
news, whether by the papers or by Mrs. K. s letters. 
May the living and true God be the God and Redeemer 
and portion of each of my beloved friends, and be 
more and more gracious to, and more and more glorious 
in the eyes of my beloved parents as they advance to 
the borders of the unseen and eternal world ! May you 
be enabled to say with the divine Psalmist, Whom 
have I in heaVen but thee? and there is none upon 

1 The reader will remember the touching entry on page 259: "I 
think I can say through grace that God s presence or absence alone 
distinguishes places to me." 



the earth whom I desire besides thee: my flesh and my 
heart faileth, but God is the strength of my heart and 
my portion for ever! As for me I shall behold thy 
face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake 
with thy likeness. May your faith be as the shining 
light, shining more and more unto the perfect day ! Oh ! 
that I might hear in this far land of those of our dear 
kindred that as yet love not Jesus, having the eye divinely 
opened to behold His beauty and preciousness ! For 
myself I am here in the midst of a people of a strange 
language, and who know not the true God nor Jesus 
Christ whom he hath sent to be the light and life of men 
and yet I cannot say that I am solitary or forsaken I 
-I indeed more at home here than I did when I was 
st among you in Scotland, when the weight of that call 
which I believe I obeyed in coming here was resting upon 
making me as a stranger among my own kindred 
en I last wrote I had newly taken up my abode here 
my Chinese domestics, and had been encouraged b y 
feehng able to read and pray with them (though feebly) 
their own tongue. My teacher had not then joined 
I was uncertain whether he would succeed in 
school formed on the principles of the gospel 

- k e an y effort! believe we could orenuti: 

JEt. 32-35-] AN EARLY VISITOR. 351 

the first instance I want to go on gradually until the char 
acter of the school becomes fixed on right principles, and 
until I see that it really promises to accomplish more than 
that which I sought it for at the outset, viz. bringing me 
into such intercourse with the people as might enable me 
to acquire the language as they speak it, and might open 
up the way for preaching the Word among them when I 
am able to do this. Three of the boys stay with us in the 
house, and all of them come regularly to worship in the 
morning, when we have a little meeting of seventeen or 
eighteen persons in all. The school is of course shut up 
on Sabbath, but the last two Sabbaths most of the boys 
have been with us most of the day learning a Christian 
book, and have also attended Chinese worship of their 
own accord at the chapel of the London Society, where a 
native at present officiates. Soon after the school was 
opened it was interesting to me one morning about six 
o clock, and before any one was on foot but myself, to see 
a Chinese woman with a little boy of eleven or twelve 
knocking to be admitted to the school. I thought of that 
blessed time approaching when the mothers of China 
will bring their children to the feet of Jesus that he may 
bless them. The Chinese are diligent in learning after 
their own manner. They begin with the morning light 
and continue to con over their insipid task (insipid, as we 
would reckon it) until evening. They are an intelligent 
and interesting race, and when the gospel takes hold of 
them in elevating and saving power, they will be interest 
ing in another manner." 

Amid such quiet, patient, but unobtrusive labours the 

352 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1847-50. 

first fourteen months of his residence in Hong-Kong 
passed away. Longing for great things, yet not despising 
the day of small things, he was content meanwhile to 
occupy faithfully the narrow sphere assigned him, and to 
wait in patience till the great Master should open a wider 
door. The time, however, was now come for a further and 
bolder night. His proficiency in the spoken language 
of the Canton province was now sufficient to enable him 
at least intelligibly to declare his message. The shores 
of continental China with its teeming towns and villages 
lay before his eyes, and he longed to be in the midst of 
the vast harvest-field. It was true that as yet the per 
missive liberty of intercourse with the native population 
was confined within the limits of the five open ports, nor 
had any Protestant missionary hitherto extended his 
labours much beyond their precincts. There would, he 
knew, be much difficulty and possibly some danger in 
the attempt; but there was no manifest impossibility, and 
an impossibility alone was in his view a sufficient hind 
rance to one who would go forward in a great work in 
the name of the Lord. He would at least knock at the 
door, and see whether that divine almighty hand would 
open it. " You desired," said he in one of his letters, 
" that three doors might be opened to me, the door of 
entrance into the language, the door of access into the 
country, and the door of admittance for the Lord s truth 
into men s hearts. The first of these has been opened 
in an encouraging degree already; and it now remains to 
seek by prayer and actual trial that the other two doors 
may be opened also." He announced accordingly the 


discontinuance both of his Sunday English services and of 
the Chinese school at Hong-Kong, and steadfastly turned 
his face towards the "regions beyond:" On January 
29th, 1849, he writes: 

"The routine of my work hitherto has been in learning 
the Chinese language, with the important accompaniment 
of preaching from week to week among my own country 
men. Now, however, I am entering as far as can be 
foreseen on a new sphere and mode of labour, being 
about to discontinue my temporary position both among 
the Chinese and English, and go forth among the people 
of these shores with the Word of eternal life in my hands, 
and gradually also on my tongue. Yesterday (Sabbath, 
28th) I intimated the discontinuance of my English 
preaching, and to-day I have given warning to my servants, 
&c., that the school, which is at present interrupted by the 
Chinese New Year, will not be again re-opened. To this 
decision I have been clearly led, as we have yet no pros 
pect of any minister from Scotland, nor of any other 
missionary who might take up the educational part of the 
work among the Chinese, and I had but one alternative 
before me, viz. that of either proceeding to form a church 
and locating myself among my countrymen and in my 
Chinese school ; or that of leaving both, and going forth 
into the field at large in order at once to attain in a 
proper manner the spoken language, and to spread abroad 
the gospel of salvation among these unsaved millions. 
This latter course I have felt it my duty to adopt, al 
though it is one accompanied with many difficulties and 
dangers of different kinds. But the work must be done, 

354 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1847-50. 

and I am enabled joyfully to say, Lord, here am I, send 
me. The young man who has been teaching the school 
and myself will not, I think, return to me; but the other 
two assistants will go forth, I trust, with me, and perhaps 
others also. Certainly my past habits and experience fit 
me above most preachers for attempting this mode of 
missionary work; but whether, and how far, I may be 
succeeded in it is with the Lord, at whose command alone 
I go forth. I need not add that in these circumstances 
I shall have special need of special prayer to be made in 
my behalf, and in behalf of the people among whom I may 
be led from time to time. China is not only forbidden 
ground to a foreigner, but it is a land of idols and a land 
without a Sabbath. How great then muirt be that power 
which can alone open up my way and make it successful ! 
But JESUS hath said, All power is given unto me in 
heaven and on earth; and JEHOVAH hath said to the Son, 
Ask of me and I will give thee the heathen for thine 
inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy 
possession. Let the weak then say, I am strong! I 
shall not add more by coming down to matters of lesser 
moment. May the souls of God s people among you 
prosper and be in health, and may many be brought nigh 
who are now far off in heart from the living God! With 
love to all who love the Lord and seek his face, I am, 
dear mother, your affectionate son, WM. C. BURNS." 

The event fully justified the decision which he had 
taken, and the brave and resolute spirit in which he pre 
pared himself for its accomplishment. The difficulties 
and dangers with which he laid his account were indeed 

&t. 32-35.] RECEPTION BY THE PEOPLE. 355 

not wanting, but in the midst of them all his way was 
opened and his course prospered to a degree which he 
had scarcely dared to hope. While there were frequent 
risks from the assaults of robbers and the jealous spirit 
and policy of the local authorities, he met everywhere 
amongst the great body of the people with that friendly 
reception which they have been since found in other cases 
to accord to any stranger who frankly casts himself upon 
their kindness. He possessed in large measure that 
genial human sympathy, and that quiet self-possession and 
promptitude of fit reply, which, Mr. Fortune tells us, form 
the best passports to the good humour and friendly enter 
tainment of a Chinese crowd ; and a foreigner who trusts 
himself in places where foreigners are rare must expect to 
live very much in the midst of crowds. So he found his 
way with comparatively little trouble or interruption from 
village to village, and seldom failed at least of a numerous 
and inquisitive, if not earnestly attentive audience. Even 
the personal privations and hardships which he had re 
garded as inevitable were much less serious than he had 
anticipated : so that he very soon sent back to Hong-Kong 
a heavy cloak which he had brought away with him, with 
the significant message that "he did not need to sleep on 
the hills." His chief danger throughout arose from the 
general repute, sadly belied in his case, of the untold 
wealth possessed by foreigners, and the consequent sensa 
tion produced among the robber-class by the arrival of a 
European stranger. Anything therefore in the shape of 
gold, or that looked like gold, he found the greatest 
possible hindrance to his quiet and peaceful progress, and 

356 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1847-50, 

a light purse the necessary condition of a light heart. 
Years after this I remember that when I gave him a small 
pocket-Bible in place of a much valued one which he had 
lost, he said with a significant smile, that his only objec 
tion to it was the gilt clasp, which he feared would one 
day attract the greedy eyes of some Chinese robber, and 
cause the theft of the book for the sake of the gold an 
apprehension which was soon afterwards in point of fact 
fulfilled. From the following extracts it will be seen that 
such "perils of robbers" were the only serious perils he 
encountered in this difficult, and as it seemed to many at 
the time, somewhat daring undertaking : 

"At Shap-Pat-H(Kiing (or Eighteen Villages), February 
26th, 1849. MY DEAR MOTHER, I have had the privi 
lege of again hearing from you, and this privilege has been 
even greater than usual, from the fact which the date of 
this letter intimates, that I am now no more among our 
countrymen, but am dwelling among this heathen people 
alone, were it not for the presence of a covenant God 
and Saviour. In following out the purpose intimated in 
my last, I left Hong-Kong on Wednesday the yth current 
for the opposite continent of China, and have been, since 
that time, going from place to place with my Chinese 
assistants and one servant, much as I used to do in Scot 
land in days that are past. In some places I have spent 
only one day; in others I have remained for a longer 
time, the population being large and the door open. As 
yet I have been furthered and prospered far beyond what 
I looked for; and although the difficulties are many, even 
of an outward kind, yet I do not despond in looking to 


the future. One of our difficulties arises from the constant 
fear the people are in of robbers, who suppose, though 
in my case without cause, that foreigners have much 
money with them; and again in places where there are 
mandarins a foreigner is likely to be dislodged at once. 
This was my experience at first setting out; for I had spent 
only one night at Cowloon, opposite to Hong-Kong, when 
I was warned to remove, and so had to retreat for the 
time. The people also at present are in constant appre 
hension of war with England, and this makes them more 
suspicious of foreigners who come into their borders. 
But with all this I have hitherto had great liberty of access 
to the population, and as far as I have been able to 
declare my message I have found attentive, and in some 
cases earnestly attentive hearers. . . . The valley 
I am now in is full of villages, as its name intimates. It 
is also the seat of a market held nearly every third day, 
to which the people of the surrounding country resort, 
and this makes it an important centre of operations. 
Yesterday the Christian Sabbath was the market-day 
here. I was out among the people about three hours, 
and had much support from God. What need have I of 
the presence of the Lord of the Sabbath in a land like 
this, that I may not lose my own soul in seeking to 
save the souls of others ! I shall probably need to leave 
this place soon, as the master of the house I am now in 
does not promise us lodgings even for another night. 
But the Lord will provide. They shall not be ashamed 
that wait for me. " 

It will have been observed with what feeling he speaks 

358 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1847-50. 

of his position in finding himself for the first time in a 
Sabbathless land, and of the dreary round of the secular 
market-days, irrespective of all the hallowed mementos 
and signs of a higher world. He often recurs to this, and 
evidently felt it as the sorest of all privations almost 
like the blotting out of the sun from the sky of his daily 
life. His words vividly remind one of the feelings ex 
pressed by the Psalmist, when, under a similar sense of 
spiritual deprivation and exile, he remembered the Lord 
from the land of Jordan, and of the Hefmonites, and from 
the hill Mizar. "When I remember these things my soul 
is cast down within me: for I had gone with the multitude, 
I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of 
joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holy-day. Why 
art thou cast down, O my soul, and why art thou dis 
quieted within me? Hope thou in God, for I shall yet 
praise him for the help of his countenance." It was under 
the impulse of such feelings that he would from time to 
time break away from his solitary labours amongst those 
heathen villages, and make a rapid visit to the com 
paratively Christian community at Hong-Kong, for the 
sake "of retirement and the privileges of the Christian 
Sabbath." He snatched one of those seasons of sacred 
retreat about a month after the date of the letter just 
quoted: but after a brief space he is again at his work, 
and dates the i6th April, from "the village of Pan-Seen, 
to the north of Hong-Kong about eighty-five miles :"- 

DEAR MoTHER,-After writing you from Hong-Kong 

the end of last month, I remained there a few days 

longer, to enjoy the advantage of retirement and the 


privileges of a Christian Sabbath, and on the 4th of the 
present month returned again to this continent of China. 
Since coming back I have visited four villages of 1000 
to 1500 inhabitants each, remaining generally for a few 
days, and embracing such opportunities as are given me, 
both in going out among the people, and in the visits 
which many pay to us, to make known something of the 
gospel message. We were some time ago invited to come 
to the village where we now are; and not only do we here 
enjoy the fullest external liberty to speak to the people, 
but there are some who receive us with much cordiality, 
and seem to manifest some interest in our message. One 
man in particular who this evening worshipped with us 
seems as if his mind were opening to the truth. But ah ! 
when I speak thus you must not judge of such a case as 
if it were similar to those which we remember at Kilsyth, 
Dundee, and Perth, in days that are past! There is 
among this people no Sabbath, no Bible, no distinct 
knowledge even of the existence of one only living and 
true God ; and in my present circumstances it is not a 
little encouragement to find tokens even of a distinct and 
cordial apprehension of the simplest principles of divine 
truth. How little are many who neglect the great salva 
tion among you aware that they are indebted for all that 
is pure and elevated in their knowledge to that holy Book 
which they despise ! Were it not my abiding conviction 
that the Lord hath sent me here, and that His grace can 
be made sufficient for us in all circumstances, I would 
sometimes be overwhelmed when regarding the state of 
this blinded people, and the danger to which my own 

360 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1847-50. 

soul is exposed in dwelling among them. From day to 
day I have enjoyed many tokens of the Lord s guiding 
and supporting hand; but while this is the case, I cannot 
say that as yet I have seen any clear indications in the 
state of this people that the day of their spiritual deliver 
ance is at hand. In other days it has been my solemn 
privilege to enter into the labours of others, and it may 
be that here I am to labour where others are to reap. . . . 
April ijt/1. This morning I resume my pen in haste to 
conclude this letter. From morning to morning the 
Lord s mercies are ever new. Great is His faithfulness. 
. . . I am about to-day to remove to a village further 
on. My messenger waits, and I must in haste conclude, 
praying for all covenant blessings to my beloved parents, 
kindred, &c., and for grace and peace to all the churches 
of the living God. I ever am," &c. 

At his first starting from Hong-Kong he had character 
istically "left his assistants to direct the boat to any quar 
ter," on the long extended coast, "they thought best," 
having "no other plan but that of making known the 
gospel by tracts and speech, leaving all the rest, as well as 
this the greatest, to the gracious care of God." And so 
he went on from day to day in his work of faith and 
patience, passing on from village to village with the divine 
message, which it was the joy of his life to declare, simply 
as Ae Unseen Hand of his Master seemed to open and 
point the way now lingering for a while in one spot, 
now pressing rapidly on, as the Pillar of Cloud appeared 
to halt or to move onwards before him. "As soon as he 
reached a village, he commenced to read his Bible aloud, 

/Et. 32-35.] MODE OF OPERATION. 361 

say, under the shade of a tree soon the villagers began 
to gather, and he explained to them the nature and object 
of the Gospel. Usually some one would ask him at meal 
time where he was to eat? and he as usually partook 
of what was set before him by some hospitable villager. 
As evening approached, some one would offer him a 
night s shelter; and thus he often went on from week to 
week, preaching the word, and lacking nothing." Mean 
while, it was his lot almost wholly "to plough in hope, 
and to sow in hope," intensely longing for the fruit of 
souls, yet willing either to gather it in with his own hands 
or to sow the seeds of a harvest to be reaped by others. 
The entries in his journal are at this period singularly 
brief and hurried mere jottings, evidently hastily noted 
down overnight in the midst of outward discomforts and 
almost constant movement but only on that account 
speak the more impressively of the abundance and self- 
denying nature of his labours : 

"We went to Cowloon, but they took me to a school- 
house rented by the London Mission, and after one day s 
stay among a listless people we were obliged to leave in 
consequence of the mandarin s remonstrating with the 
landlord of the house. On Thursday the London mis 
sionaries came over, and I went back with them to the 
Chinese Medical Hospital (Hong-Kong). On Friday we 
again landed directly opposite at Tseen-Sha-Tein, had 
good openings and favour among the villages, and lodged 
in a mat-shed I eating, as I had the previous day, and 
have done since, with my Chinese companions, but not 
putting on in the meantime any part of the Chinese dress. 

362 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1847-50. 

On Saturday we removed to Tseen Wan (Shallow Bay) 
village, a distance of perhaps twenty-five Chinese miles ; 
the people very friendly, but generally speaking the 
Hak-ka, not the Puntee or Canton city dialect. Here we 
remained until Wednesday (yesterday), when we crossed 
the hills, a distance of 20 or 25 Chinese miles (probably 
7 or 8 English miles), to this valley covered with villages 
(Shap-Pat-Hceung). To-day I have been out, and have 
had more encouragement in the aspect of the people, and 
also in my ability to communicate to them the great 
truths, (i) That there- is but one true God, His character, 
&c. ; (2) That all men are sinners idolaters, &c.; and 
(3) That there is a Saviour and only one, Jesus the Son 
of the living God. 

11 Shap-Pat-Hceung. Much encouraged at Pat-Hceung. 
Left it on Tuesday the 2oth. 2ist at Cum-Teen. Many 
people attention at night fear of robbers. 22d. Came 
here. Door opened. Many people. Attention. 

"S/nim-Chan, March $tti, Monday. Came here on 
Friday, after being six days at Shap-Pat-Hceung, and three 
days at Sin-Teen. People friendly. Arrived on the 
market-day. Great press to see the foreigner, but all 
friendly. On Saturday messenger arrived from Hong- 
Kongrobbed by the way of the money he was bringing. 
In my own room not an every-day privilege in this land 
Oh! for the Spirit of grace to improve it. 

" Chinese Hospital, Hong-Kong, March 29^. We staid 
at Shum-Chan until Wednesday the 14*, visiting the sur 
rounding villages. i4th. Removed westward to Sheung- 
Poo-Tan, visiting villages to the west, Kak-Teen, Kong- 

JEt. 32-35.] ITINERARY NOTES. 363 

Ha, Wong-Kong, &c., eight days. At Sheun-Poo-Tan, 
people very friendly and attentive Kak-Teen, not so. 
Thursday, returned to Shum-Chan; invited to go back 
into the country; crossed the Yuen-Long, and thence on 
foot to Pai-Teung beside Cap-Shui-Man, and thence by 
boat to this place way prospered arrived here at six 
o clock P.M., just as Dr. Hirschberg, a dear brother who 
gives us lodging here, was about to land from Cowloon, to 
which he goes every Monday. Here I have ordered a 
Chinese dress, and I trust that next week I may again go 
forth into the country. The seven weeks I have already 
spent there have been full of encouragement." 

Brief as these itinerary notes are, they will give the 
reader a tolerably distinct idea of the character of the 
missionary s life and work during this first and tentative 
effort to carry the gospel message into the interior of the 
Chinese territory. The lodging in the "mat-shed;" the 
frequent alarms of robbers; the arrival of the messenger 
from Hong-Kong without the expected money supplies; 
the summary dismissal by the mandarin and the friendly 
bearing of the people generally; the eager rush at the 
market town "to see the foreigner;" the valleys thick- 
sown with villages; the journeys on foot, without purse 
or scrip or change of raiment, over the hills; the signifi 
cant and touching allusion to the rare privilege of a night 
"in his own room;" the brief breathing time of retire 
ment and prayer, in the midst of the poor and suffering, 
in the Chinese hospital, all, naked as they are alike of 
detail and colouring, form together the elements of a 
picture of apostolic faith and zeal, and self-denying labour 

364 LIFE OF REV - WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1847-50. 

which rises to the mind s eye as vivid as it is impressive 
and rare. The reader will have noticed too, the passing 
allusion to his gradual adoption at this time of the 
Chinese habits alike in food and in dress; a matter in 
which, I believe, he has been hitherto almost entirely 
singular amongst missionaries of the Protestant faith. The 
circumstance admits of easy explanation. I daresay there 
was to him a certain charm in being thus entirely like to 
those whose servant he desired to be for Christ s sake, 
and thus visibly to walk in the steps of him who would 
"be all things to all pen if by any means he might save 
some." But that was not his main reason, or one which 
he himself ever gave. His practice in this respect was 
singular, mainly because his sphere of labour and his cir 
cumstances were singular. Within the limits of the five 
open ports, or in any place where the sight of a foreigner 
is a common and everyday occurrence, there was in his 
view no advantage whatever in the adoption of the 
Chinese dress and mode of life; but in inland towns and 
villages it was essential, unless one wished to be the 
centre of a noisy street crowd, and to be gazed at like a 
gorilla or an ourang-outang. He found it of the greatest 
importance, with a view to the peaceful prosecution of 
his work, to avoid this, and therefore he did avoid it. 
When Dr. Morrison arrived at Hong-Kong, "he adopted," 
says Dr. Medhurst, "the dress and manners of the natives, 
allowing his hair and nails to grow, eating with the chop 
sticks, and walking about the factory in thick Chinese 
shoes. In this, as he afterwards acknowledged, he meant 
well, but he judged ill; for in the first place the confine- 


ment and hard fare injured his health; then, his singular 
habits deprived him of the association of his countrymen ; 
and lastly, his intercourse with the natives was hindered 
rather than helped by it. Had he been residing entirely 
among the Chinese, far separated from Europeans, the 
adoption of the Chinese costume might have prevented 
immediate observation and conduced to permanent settle 
ment; but in Canton, where there is a marked difference 
between the Chinese and Europeans, the attempt to unite 
the habits of such opposite classes only excited the anim 
adversions and suspicions of both. The Catholics in 
Macao dress all their priests and catechists in the Euro 
pean costume, which is a sort of protection against native 
interference; but when they send agents into the interior, 
they clothe them after the Chinese fashion, in order to avoid 
the gaze of the populace, and the annoyance of the police" 
These sagacious and discriminating remarks, written 
more than thirty years ago, have been since fully 
justified by the experience of those who, whether as 
missionary or scientific pioneers, have passed beyond 
the lines of European residence, and pushed their way 
"into the regions beyond." There, for a foreigner simply 
to show himself in his foreign dress is to become the 
signal for the assembling of an idle and inquisitive crowd, 
which grows and swells as he passes along. A graphic 
instance may be given from Mr. Fortune s interesting 
narrative of a Residence among the Chinese, Inland, on 
the Coast, and at Sea. "When we landed from our 
boats," says he, "a large crowd assembled round us, and 
followed us into the city (Pinghoo), increasing as we 

366 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1847-50. 

went along. Every now and then a little urchin ran past 
to give warning on ahead, so that we found the whole 
street aware of our approach, and every door and window 
crowded with anxious faces. All went on quite well, 
however, although the crowd contained some mischievous 
looking fellows in its ranks. When we entered a shop 
the scene outside was quite fearful. The street was very 
narrow and literally crammed with human beings, all 
anxious to see us and to find out what we were buying. 
In more than one instance the pressure was so great as 
to endanger the fronts of the shops; and anxious as the 
Chinese are for trade, I believe the poor shop-keepers were 
heartily glad when they got rid of us." 1 An introduction 
like this into any community could scarcely facilitate the 
quiet discharge of any serious work, and least of all the 
furtherance of that eternal kingdom which "cometh not 
with observation." In rapid missionary journeys, indeed, 
by canal or river, where the object is simply to distribute 
books and declare the gospel message at each village and 
hamlet by the way, and then pass quickly on, the singularity 
of the European dress may be even of advantage, as sig 
nalizing the stranger s arrival, and immediately gathering 
an eager audience round him. The little unwonted excite 
ment passes off harmlessly, as the strange visitor is off 
and away before the crowd has grown into a tumult and 
suspicious citizens and jealous mandarins have taken the 
alarm. But to make a more lengthened sojourn in such 
a community, and go about one s work steadily and quietly, 
one must cease to wear the garb of a stranger. 

1 P P. 327-328. 

-fit. 32-35.] RETURN TO HONG-KONG. 367 

After about a week s repose, Mr. Burns was again at 
his work (April ist), and continued his evangelistic 
movements amongst the continental villages for about 
six weeks longer, pushing his way still further inland to 
the north and the west. At the close of that period, 
however, the hot and rainy season rendered further pro 
gress for the present impracticable, while at the same 
time the more suspicious and less friendly attitude of the 
people as he advanced westward gradually more and 
more closed the door against him. He accordingly 
returned to Hong-Kong, and took up his abode in a 
manner somewhat more permanent, under the friendly 
roof of his endeared friend Dr. Hirschberg, first on 
Morrison s Hill and then at his new hospital in Victoria. 

Here he remained, with only one brief interruption, for 
the next eight months, perfecting his knowledge of the 
Chinese language, and becoming, as he says, less and less 
"at home with the pen and more with the Chinese pencil;" 
doing the work of a Barnabas amongst the sick and suffer 
ing in the hospital beside him ; and co-operating zealously 
with his esteemed host in all his other works and labours 
of love. But the nature of his occupations during this 
quiet interval, as well as the views and aspirations which 
animated him, will be best learned from his own words, 
which will appropriately close the history of this first stage 
of his Chinese life : 

" Chinese Hospital, Hong-Kong, June 2\st, 1849. MY 
DEAR MOTHER, My last letter would not prepare you 
for hearing from me again so soon, and that too from this 
place. I went on last occasion more to the westward 

368 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1847-50. 

(having already visited a good part of those who speak 
my dialect to the north), and there we found the people 
everywhere so averse to the presence of a foreigner, that 
after sleeping nine successive nights on the water in going 
from place to place, and not being allowed to lodge on 
shore, I returned here, where I have again resumed my 
quiet studies, and where I enjoy opportunities of doing 
what I can amongst this people, not only in speaking to 
the patients in the hospital, but in visiting others in the 
neighbourhood. The season also at present, both from 
great rain and great heat, is not so favourable for that 
mode of life which I have been following for some pre 
vious months on the opposite continent. I trust that in 
due time my path may be further opened, and that it may 
graciously be made plain by the Lord in what way and 
in what place I am to be more permanently employed 
upon these shores. I do not think at present of return 
ing to the continent, but it is possible that my path may 
be made plain to do so sooner than I can anticipate. 
Perhaps you are by this time aware that Dr. James Young, 
a much valued friend here, offered himself some time ago 
to the Presbyterian Church in England as a missionary. 
The last mail has brought to him the intimation of his 
offer of service being accepted; but where and how we 
may be located and employed on these shores is not yet 
fully determined; nor can Dr. Y. leave his present em 
ployment until the close of the present year. It was a 
great mercy that in my last journey as well as in the two 
previous ones I was preserved from every danger, although 
surrounded with perils seen and unseen. The night 

JEt. 32-35.] DANGER OF PIRATES. 369 

before I landed here we were not, I suppose, above half 
a mile from a Macao passage-boat when it was attacked 
by pirates and robbed with the loss of some lives. The 
firing was so loud that, in the darkness, we supposed it 
must be some English war-steamer in pursuit of pirates. 
I was at this time on board the Chinese passage-boat 
from Canton, and no evil was allowed to come nigh to 
us. The person who has charge of the Chinese hospital 
where I am now lodged is a converted Jew, Dr. Hirsch- 
berg, connected with the London Missionary Society. I 
have long enjoyed his friendship, and now for a season I 
am very favourably situated in lodging with him, both for 
learning the language and for speaking a little among the 
patients who come seeking cure to their bodily diseases. 
It is little indeed, however, that I can add regarding 
tokens of an encouraging nature among the people. But 
the day of mercy and deliverance promised will come, 
and then these ends of the earth shall remember and turn 
unto the Lord. You have need to pray for all of us who 
labour here, that we may be endued with a patient and 
persevering spirit, for the natural and spiritual difficulties 
of the field are of no common kind. . . . Commend 
me, dear mother, to the prayers of God s people. May 
you and my father never forget me, when, either one or 
both, you draw near the glorious high throne of our Father 
in heaven. Jesus is the way. In His blood we have 
access : in Him we are complete ! " 

Again, about a month after, July 25th, he writes: 
" I take up my pen (not so much used in these days as 

my Chinese pencil) to write a few lines that you may 

2 A 

370 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1847-50. 

know something of my present affairs. During the past 
month I have been quietly resident here; and while I have 
thus enjoyed much leisure for study, I have also had daily 
opportunities of taking part, both as a hearer and as a 
speaker, in the meetings which are held for the good of 
the patients and of the household. As I had no present 
need for my former native assistants who journeyed with 
me on the mainland, they left me more than a month ago, 
and I am thus in the meantime alone, and co-operating 
with others as formerly at home and in my own tongue. 
This kind of position suits me, and will probably continue 
to be my position here until at least Dr. Young is ready 
to join me, which is not until the beginning of next year. 
. . . Do not cease, dear parents, to pray for me, that 
I may be still graciously kept and divinely quickened and 
enlarged in the way of God s testimonies. The removal 
of such pillars as John M Donald and also Sir Andrew 
Agnew would overwhelm the minds of God s people, were 
it not that they are not man-worshippers, but have their 
faith staid on Him who ever liveth, and hath an unchange 
able priesthood. While Jesus lives, the Church which is 
His body shall live also, each member receiving by faith 
out of His fulness and grace for grace. How securely 
must the Church of the living God be built, when it can 
stand unshaken while so many who seemed to be pillars 
are removed! But in the Church above, those who are 
made to be pillars shall go no more out. Blessed, 
holy, glorious society of the redeemed in the presence of 
God and the Lamb ! May our hearts be ever there until 
amazing grace open the door of that inner sanctuary, and 

-ffit 32-3S-1 DEPARTURE FOR CANTON. 371 

call us to come in ! Oh ! when shall the nations on 
earth the many millions of these distant Gentiles hear 
the call of the Son of God, bringing them into the Church 
below to be prepared for the Church above! The change 
will be great indeed when this takes place ! May we 
have grace to pray and labour that the time may be 
hastened ! You will remember me, dear father, to all who 
ask of my welfare, and engage the praying to pray much 
and more in our behalf, and that China s gates may be 
opened to the King of glory!" 

One more effort (November, 1849) to resume his evan 
gelistic labours on the mainland, in which he was met with 
obstacles still more formidable than on the last occasion, 
and returned, robbed and stripped of everything but the 
clothes necessary to cover him, and his work at Hong- 
Kong and its vicinity closed. He sailed with Dr. Young, 
whose brief but bright career was for the next four years 
intimately associated with his, for Canton on the last day 
of February, 1850. 




WE have already remarked that Mr. Burns labours 
on Chinese soil had been hitherto mainly pre 
paratory and tentative. The question of a permanent 
centre of operations for the infant mission had not even 
yet been determined. The balance of opinion, however, 
in the home committee had been for some time back 
turning more and more decidedly towards Amoy, and in 
this judgment Dr. Young very strongly concurred. Mr. 
Burns himself so far acquiesced in it as to have actually 
taken his passage for that port on September 5th, 1849, 
when his course was arrested by an attack of fever, brought 
on as he thought by the anxieties of the decision and ex 
posure to the sun during the numerous " salutations " of 
a hurried leave-taking. The decision, however, had clearly 
not been taken without some misgiving. On his recovery 
from illness the suspended purpose was for the present 
silently dropped, and was never afterwards resumed, until 
he had fully proved by prayer and earnest effort whether 
another and still wider door nearer at hand were not open 
to him. It is probable that from the first, and whilst 
wandering amongst the villages opposite Hong-Kong, his 

iEt. 35-36.1 CANTON. 373 

eye had been turned towards Canton, the great centre of 
life in Southern China, towards which at each successive 
movement westward he approached nearer and nearer. 
Cowloon, the point at which he first landed, is distant from 
that city only about ninety miles, and the whole district 
lying between, and which he had been since traversing, 
might be regarded as in its immediate vicinity, and as 
the natural pathway of advance towards it. It was the 
great centre, too, of that dialect which for the last two 
years he had been so laboriously studying, and which was 
the only form of the Chinese spoken language which as 
yet he knew. Any one, therefore, that knew him might 
almost have predicted that he would not pass it by with 
out making some effort to bring to the ears of its heathen 
myriads the message of life. It might indeed be that the 
will of the Master as well as the growing conviction of 
the Church was calling him elsewhere, and that He had 
no work for him to do, no people for him to gather " in 
that city;" but he was unwilling too hastily and rashly to 
adopt so important a conclusion. He will at least knock 
at its gates earnestly and patiently, and see whether there 
were an entrance there for his message and his Master or 

The prospect at the outset was not very encouraging, 
nor did it on further trial greatly brighten. The door 
of entrance even to a settled residence in the city was 
never fully opened to him. He succeeded, indeed, at 
last, after many harassing disappointments, in securing 
the expiring lease of a lodging from a brother missionary 
about to return to Scotland; but that was only for a period 

374 LIFE OF REV< WI LLIAM c BURNS. [1850-51. 

of eight months, and at its close his position would be as 
unfixed and as uncertain as ever. In other respects, too, 
the aspect of the field was scarcely more promising. 
Whilst he enjoyed abundant opportunities of sowing the 
precious seed, and was seldom without a goodly group 
of apparently attentive hearers, yet it seemed to him that 
his words did not tell upon them. There was attention 
more or less fixed, but no impression. They listened to 
the truth, and possibly carried away some glimpses of it, 
but it did not take hold and keep hold of them. Few 
of his casual hearers ever came back of their own accord 
to hear him again, or sought the preacher out to inquire 
further of his message and his doctrine. He was even 
tempted sometimes to doubt if the Chinese were in their 
present state even susceptible of those deep spiritual im 
pressions which he had seen in former days and longed 
to see again; whether a lengthened period of preparation, 
and the long and patient sowing of many labourers, might 
not be necessary ere any one might hope to "return re 
joicing bringing his sheaves with him." Yet he went on 
patiently and hopefully, and speaks of himself as as 
happy here and in the midst of his self-denying and ap 
parently unproductive work as "he could be anywhere 
in all the world." There is nothing in his life, as it seems 
to me, more admirable, and in the whole circumstances 
of the case more remarkable, than this patient and stead 
fast continuance in well-doing in the midst of the most 
prosaic and uninteresting labours, and amid the dead calm 
of a more than heathen apathy, equally as when borne 
along by the exhilarating breath of sympathetic enthusiasm 

^Et. 35-36.] WORKING AND WAITING. 375 

and almost uninterrupted success. "The two works," 
says Mr. Moody Stuart, "were singularly diverse in their 
character, and were such as have rarely, if ever before, 
been allotted to one man to accomplish. Those who 
knew William Burns only as the enthusiastic preacher 
from town to town throughout the land would have looked 
upon him as the last man in the Church who, after eight 
years of what seemed the highest religious excitement, 
with thousands crowding to hear him, would set himself 
to what was then reckoned the almost hopeless task of 
thoroughly mastering the Chinese language; would seclude 
himself from his own countrymen, and live among a 
people so different, teaching their children that he might 
learn their language, and then adopt their dress, and their 
ways, till in strange places the authorities were sometimes 
slow to believe him when he claimed to be an Englishman." 
Such mainly had been his work for many months at Hong- 
Kong, and such too, at least not more exciting or spirit- 
stirring, was his life at Canton. Meanwhile Dr. Young 
had gone on before him to Amoy, and wrote from month 
to month most hopefully of the prospects of the work there, 
and urged him earnestly to join him. He still hesitated. 
There was not much indeed in the way of positive encour 
agement to detain him at Canton; no "great and effectual 
door " visibly opened to him and loudly calling upon him 
to enter; but yet there was not, on the other hand, any 
clear and decisive indication that God had no work for 
him to do there. It even seemed to him sometimes as 
the months passed on as though a prospect of ultimate 
success were beginning to dawn upon him, and as he saw 

376 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1850-51. 

the stolid countenances of his hearers now and then light 
ening up with something like intelligent and earnest 
interest, his heart yearned over them with a wistful hope 
fulness, and he felt as if he could not leave them so long 
as the faintest hope of a day of power and blessing among 
them remained: " If you do not hear," said he, " so in 
teresting accounts from Canton" (as those recently re 
ceived from Amoy), " you must ascribe it in part to the 
defects of your correspondent, but still more, it may be, 
to the difficulties of this very important station a station 
so difficult and important, that I believe no agent who is 
in any degree suited for it, and who has a heart to love 
and labour for its proud and suspicious people, should be 
encouraged to leave it. Last Tuesday evening, when 
looking on an assembly of from fifty to sixty engaged 
listeners, while a native was addressing them before I did 
so, my heart said, How can I leave these dear and pre 
cious souls for whom there are so few to care? I can 
now tell them of the way of life with some measure of 
clearness and acceptance, and so long as God gives me 
standing ground to gather and address them, I must go 
on to do so, leaving the issues in His own hand, with 
whom it is to bless and save ! Help us to maintain the 
combat in this great heathen city, until its gates are opened 
to the King of glory ! Brethren, pray for us that the word 
of the Lord may have free course and be glorified!" 

But those distinct intimations of the Master s will, for 
which he had so long waited, came at last. The door he 
had sought and hoped to enter was finally closed; the, 
standing-ground which alone he desiderated as a warrant 

^Et. 35-36.] DEPARTURE FOR AMOY. 377 

to remain was taken from him. Shortly after the expiry 
of the lease, he had received notice to remove from the 
premises he had hitherto occupied, and all efforts to obtain 
another suitable station had failed. This, taken in con 
nection with the open door and brightening prospects at 
Amoy, seemed to him decisive of the path of duty. Diffi 
culties in the ordinary sense of the word had little influ 
ence with him : rather only did they rouse him to a more 
determined resolution to " go forward " in the course of 
service set before him, in the strength of Him before 
whom the mountains flow down, and whose word is "not 
bound;" but the slightest indication of His will, the faintest 
whisper of His voice, was to him imperative. Such an 
intimation had now, he believed, been distinctly given to 
him ; and he prepared himself without delay to obey it. 
He sailed from Canton, after a residence of sixteen 
months, in July, 1851, and reached Amoy on the 5th 
day of that month. 




A SAIL of four hundred miles in a north-easterly 
direction from Hong-Kong, along a bold and pre 
cipitous coast, rising occasionally to a commanding eleva 
tion, brings us to a group of islands scattered over the 
wide and spacious estuary of one of those rivers which 
here and there break the continuity of the rocky barrier. 
One of these is Amoy, separated from the mainland only 
by a narrow channel, in the midst of which again lies the 
smaller islet of Ku-long-soo, facing the town and harbour, 
and forming in the waters between an inner and safer 
anchorage. In approaching the city through this inlet, 
a long line of fortifications, rising from the water s edge 
and bristling with cannon, frowns upon us from the right, 
and would be indeed a formidable defence were an in 
vading enemy simple enough to advance in this direction. 
Though only six or eight miles long by two or three 
broad, and consisting mainly of rugged and barren hills, 
with immense boulders scattered over them in wild con 
fusion, the island contains within its narrow bounds 
upwards of a hundred towns and villages, and a popula 
tion of 250,000 souls. 

JEt. 36-39.] AMOY AND ITS ENVIRONS. 379 

Of this teeming hive of human life, about 150,000 are 
congregated in the city which occupies the south-west 
corner of the island. It is a poor place, with close 
narrow streets, and rather more dirty than most other 
Chinese towns. "The people have generally an emaciated 
and sallow appearance, partly from poverty and the 
crowded state in which they live, but also from the 
prevalence of opium- smoking. There are upwards of 
600 public opium-smoking places, and the drug is said to 
be used very extensively in private houses." 

Though not a place of very great commercial import 
ance, it is, -by its position and easy means of communi 
cation, a most convenient and commanding centre for 
missionary operations. Though within the limits of 
Southern China, it yet forms a sort of advanced post 
towards the north, with which communication is frequent 
and easy. Before it lies the vast province of Fo-kien, 
the great black-tea country, with its teeming myriads of 
industrious, peaceful, and comparatively friendly people; 
and behind it, at the distance of a few hours sail, the 
beautiful island of Formosa, with its three millions of 
Chinese-speaking inhabitants. Within a distance of forty 
miles is a population of some millions, speaking nearly the 
same dialect, and accessible in all directions by canal and 
river navigation. The city of Chang-chow alone, of 
which Amoy may be said to be the port, lying a few miles 
up the river, contains a population of from 200,000 to 
500,000 souls. The view here as described by travellers 
is magnificent. "I had heard," says the Rev. Wm. 
Gillespie, of the London Missionary Society, "of the plain 

380 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1851-54- 

of Chang-chow; now I saw it. From a hill at the back 
of the city, yet within the walls, a grand panorama pre 
sented itself. There lay stretching far up the country 
a rich and luxuriant strath, and a noble river winding 
along at the foot of the hills. It reminded me of the 
strath ofTay." 

Over this wide and fertile garden of souls the Christian 
missionary is free, with scarcely any hindrance, to roam at 
large. "In visiting Amoy," says the same writer just 
quoted, "the first thing that strikes a foreigner coming 
from the south, is the -feeling of delight which he experi 
ences in rambling everywhere unmolested. After being 
forcibly turned back on entering within the gates of the 
southern metropolis, as has been my experience re 
peatedly, it is pleasant to revel in the unrestrained luxury 
of rambling through the streets and everywhere within and 
without the walls of Cap-die, Amoy, Chang-chow, &c." 

Of the circumstances of missionary life in this interest 
ing field, I am tempted to give the following lively and 
graphic picture from the pen of the Rev. James Johnston, 
who two years afterwards joined the mission. In describ 
ing, to some juvenile correspondents, the "Gospel Boat," 
in which he performed his missionary journeys, he says: 

"It is not like anything you have seen in England. It 
is a genuine Chinese boat, and that is not to be seen 
anywhere but in China; so I must describe it to you as 
well as I can. Suppose yourself to be looking at a wooden 
swan, about twenty-three feet long by ten feet wide, with 
a little cabin six feet by four, standing about two feet 
above the back, which has been made even and boarded 


over; and if, instead of the long neck, you put a pair of 
eyes on the breast, and paint the whole blue, you will 
have a good idea of the cut of my boat. Add to this, one 
tall mast, and one short one at the head, with square sails 
made of bamboo poles across, and a thin network of 
bamboo slips, lined with bamboo leaves, with the neces 
sary ropes and oars, and anchor and rudder, and we are 
fully rigged. A strange cut and rig you will think it, and 
some wise youth will say, She has too much breadth of 
beam for her length; and if she s round in the bottom, 
like the body of a swan, she won t take hold of the water; 
but that is just what the Chinese wish their boats not to 
do : instead of making their boats to go through the water, 
and giving them the form of a fish, as in England, they 
make them to skim over the water, and give them the form 
of a water-fowl. In this they are right; and I think 
there are few boats in England that could keep up with 
the Amoy boats ; with a fair wind and tide, I have often 
gone from six to seven miles in half an hour. 

"It was on a beautiful morning in September that I set 
out on my excursion, with two Chinese evangelists, and 
five or six others as servants or boatmen. There were 
many other boats on the water, some going in one direc 
tion, some in another; and as we sailed through the fine 
harbour, we saw vessels of all kinds, from the British 
brig-of-war to the clumsy junks, with their shapeless 
and unwieldy hulks, and boats from all the towns and 
villages around Amoy. Each district having a form of its 
own, we could tell the place from which they came, and 
form an opinion of the cargo of each, by knowing the 

382 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1851-54- 

commodity for which the district is famous. There were 
large junks with spices from Singapore, and others with 
the hardy productions of the north. Those long boats, 
covered with mats, are from Chang-chow, laden with silks 
or sugar; and those with cabins bring fruit, and vege 
tables, and rice from Pechuia, or Chibh-bey. But we 
have not time to notice all ; we can only glance at the 
hundreds as we pass, and admire the busy appearance of 
the whole, and the gay colours of their flags, of every 
shape and hue. The wind was against us, but as it cooled 
the air, and the tide favoured us, we did not mind. 
Everything looked beautiful and cheerful; and as we 
glided on, passing many a boat more gaily painted than 
ours, but not so good at sailing, all seemed in good spirits, 
and the boatmen, who were all Christians, began to sing 
their Chinese hymns, in which we all heartily joined. 

"After a few hours sailing, we anchored at the mouth 
of the river, and left the boat to come up at full tide; 
while the evangelists and I went on to visit one or two of 
the villages. 

"You cannot well understand the effect the first arrival 
of a foreigner in one of the towns of China produces. The 
excitement caused by a lord-mayor s show in London, or 
the arrival of a menagerie in a country town in England, 
is nothing to it; and as the oldest inhabitants of this dis 
trict had never seen or even heard of a foreigner being in 
these parts, the whole population was in commotion. As 
I passed along the road, the labourers in the field ^tood 
still and stared, and those who had the presence of mind 
shouted to their companions in the adjoining field to come 


and look, while some of the boys ran before to bear the 
news to the village, and, on reaching it, I found that every 
house had turned out its occupants; old and young were 
standing ready to receive our company; every kind of 
occupation and amusement was at an end, and had been 
relinquished so suddenly, that everything stood where it 
just happened to be when the strange news arrived. The 
blacksmith had left the red-hot iron to cool on the anvil, 
the shoemaker s awl was sticking in the old shoe he was 
patching, old matrons had risen up from the spinning- 
wheel, and boys had scarcely time to snatch up the toys 
they were playing with, even the beggar stood with the 
rice-bowl in his hand, asking no alms. And it was long 
before any of them returned to their occupations; it was 
an idle time to the old, and a holiday to the young. . . . 
It is very curious to hear, in these distant heathen places, 
the great truths of the gospel passing from mouth to 
mouth, as you go along the streets, and it is pleasant to 
hear the children using the name of Jesus, even when 
they know but little of what Jesus did. After we had 
been some time there, I often heard the boys calling out 
in their own language, Jesus Christ is God, or Jesus is 
God/ or Siong Te T hian lang God loves men. " 

When Dr. Young reached Amoy in March, 1850, he 
found two bands of labourers already on the field: 
Messrs. Stronach and Young of the London Society, and 
Messrs. Talmage and Doty of the American Board of 
Missions. Both of them had hopefully broken ground, 
and numbered at this time between them twenty adult 
converts, of whom eight belonged to the former, and 

384 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1851-54. 

twelve to the latter. Into hearty sympathy and co-opera 
tion with these brethren Dr. Young at once entered, 
whilst devoting himself specially to that department of 
the work which more peculiarly belonged to him. He 
was soon at the head of two native schools numbering 
together thirty children, who rapidly grew to eighty, and 
"over some of whom he was in due time permitted to 
rejoice as Christians," besides a hospital for the sick, in 
which while he ministered to the diseases of the body, two 
native evangelists pointed the way to the Divine Physician 
of souls. He was especially useful in curing the disease 
of opium-smoking, by the introduction of a medicine 
which soothed the imperious craving for the noxious drug, 
and thus rendered the effort to break off the habit more 
easy. By means of this treatment many permanent cures 
were effected, and the demand for the medicine was soon 
so great as to become a self-supporting business. Into 
the work thus hopefully begun Mr. Burns at once threw 
himself with characteristic energy, locating himself in the 
midst of the native population in an upper chamber above 
the school, and commencing the study of the Amoy dialect 
with the sound of Chinese voices perpetually in his ears. 
A few days afterwards he gives his first impressions of the 
place and of the work in a letter to his mother : 

Amoy, July^th, 1851. MY DEAR MOTHER, As you see 
from the date I am now at Amoy, having left Canton only a 
few days after I last wrote you, and having been here already 
ten days. My expectations of getting the house I had in 
view at Canton were completely disappointed, and my way 
seemed hedged up to come here. I embarked accordingly 
at Whampoa in the English barque Herald for Amoy on the 

&t. 36-39.] FIRST DAYS AT AMOY. 385 

evening of June 26th, and after spending the Sabbath and 
Monday at Hong- Kong by the way, we reached here on the 
forenoon of July 5th. The passage was a delightful one, and 
very refreshing to the bodily frame after sixteen months in 
Canton. The days I spent in Hong- Kong were pleasant. I 
had two opportunities of preaching in Chinese, and stayed with 
my old friend Dr. Hirschberg. ... I have found a very kind 
Christian welcome among the missionary brethren, English 
and American, here, and my expectations are more than ex 
ceeded in all I have seen as yet of Amoy as a place and as a 
missionary station. I stayed for three nights with Mr. and 
Mrs. Stronach of the London Missionary Society, members 
of old in the Albany Street Congregational Church, Edin 
burgh ; and I am now very much to my mind lodged in the 
middle of the Chinese population, in a little room connected 
with the school which was made over to Dr. Young by an 
American missionary on his removal here a year ago. Thus 
settled down amid Chinese voices, and with a Christian 
native servant (who prays with me ; I cannot yet pray with 
him in his own dialect), and a Chinese teacher who comes 
daily, I am endeavouring to exchange my Canton for the 
Amoy Chinese. To speak this new dialect publicly and well 
may require a good deal of time; but even already I can make 
myself easily understood about common things, and am able 
to follow a good deal of what I hear in Chinese preaching. 
Dr. and Mrs. Young are well, and seem to be getting on well, 
through the divine blessing and guidance. I feel it a great 
privilege to be connected with him. as well as with the other 
missionary brethren here, who all go on in much harmony, 
and not without tokens of divine encouragement. The people 
here present a striking contrast to the people of Canton in 
their feelings and deportment towards foreigners. Here all 
is quiet and friendly, and although there is here also a great 
apathy on the subject of the gospel, yet a good many seem to 
listen with attention, and the missionaries have inquirers who 
come to be taught. I was preaching last Sabbath-day (in 

2 B 

386 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1851-54- 

English of course) from the words : Because iniquity shall 
abound, the love of many shall wax cold (Matthew xxiv.) ; and, 
alas ! I felt they were solemnly applicable to my own state of 
heart. Unless the Lord the Spirit continually uphold and 
quicken, oh ! how benumbing is daily contact with heathen 
ism ! But the Lord is faithful, and has promised to be as 
rivers of water in a dry place, and as the shadow of a great 
rock in a weary land. May you and all God s professing 
people in a land more favoured, but, alas ! also more guilty, 
experience much of the Lord s own presence, power, and bless 
ing, and when the enemy comes in as a flood, may the Spirit 
of the Lord yea, it is said, the Spirit of the Lord shall 
lift up a standard against him. " 

His allusion here, as well as often in other letters, 
to the "benumbing influence of continual contact with 
heathenism," and the danger generally of losing the keen 
edge and high tone of practical godliness while dwelling 
in a land in which all the usual means and incentives of 
the spiritual life are in so great a measure withdrawn, is 
at once touching and instructive, and suggests to us an 
aspect of the missionary life which most of us at home 
but little think of. We are apt to regard the Christian 
missionary as, by the very act of his consecration to so 
sublime a vocation, at once raised to a region of exalted 
faith and fervour far above us, in which all the ordinary 
perils to the life of the soul are unknown. The idea of 
a carnal, formal, perfunctory, unspiritual, and common 
place missionary, seems to us almost a contradiction in 
terms. We think naturally of those brave athletes of the 
Cross very much as ordinary Christians in early days 
thought of the ascetic recluses of the desert, as men by 
the very nature of their calling pre-eminently devoted in 


heart to God, and almost as a matter of course and ipso 
facto, "full of faith and of the Holy Ghost." No mistake, I 
believe, can be more grievous. The whole history of mis 
sionary life and labour abundantly shows how possible it 
is to lose the life of faith, even while seeking the propaga 
tion of the faith; to leave house and home and kindred for 
Christ s sake and the gospel s, and yet in a heathen land 
to breathe little either of the love of Christ or the grace 
of the gospel. Most of us little think how hard a thing it 
must be for a solitary wanderer in such a land as China, 
to maintain the life of Christian godliness in the very 
atmosphere and element of heathenism without a Sab 
bath; without Christian fellowship or brotherhood; without 
a Christian face to look into or a Christian hand to grasp ; 
with an utter disbelief of all Christian truths, and of every 
thing belonging to a higher world, looking out from the 
eyes of all around him; with nothing left to feed the inner 
springs of the soul, but his Bible, his closet (if indeed he 
can command a closet), and his God. The brightest 
lamp will burn dim in an impure and rarified atmosphere. 
It is only by a special miracle that the children of Israel 
can thrive and be of fair countenance on the pulse and 
water of Babylon. The palm-tree of the desert "knoweth 
not when heat cometh," but it is because its roots are 
watered by hidden springs far under ground. We can 
understand then how it was that the subject of this 
memoir, while wandering amid the heathen villages on 
the mainland, so intensely longed for a Sabbath at Hong- 
Kong, and so continually cast himself on the succour of 
his brethren s prayers, not only for the success of his 

388 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1851-54- 

labours, but for the very life of his own soul. "The 
wilderness and the solitary place" were indeed often made 
glad for him, and the parched ground became as "a pool, 
and the thirsty land springs of water;" but he felt that it 
was so, and could only be so, by a special miracle of grace. 

The effort "to exchange the Canton for the Amoy 
Chinese," did not prove so arduous a one as he had pro 
bably expected. Embued as he now was with the spirit 
and fundamental principles of the language, the transition 
from one form of it to another became to him compara 
tively natural and <easy. While, as we have seen, he was 
from the first able to make himself understood on com 
mon matters, and to comprehend a good deal of what he 
heard in the public worship of God, its unaccustomed 
form soon became sufficiently familiar to him to admit of 
his himself using it in public discourse. By the beginning 
of the next year we find him again at his congenial work 
of spreading the good news of the kingdom among the 
towns and villages around, where the name of Christ had 
not yet been named: of date February 7, 1852, he writes 
in his journal: 

" I am now engaged a good deal in the work of spread 
ing the gospel among this people, being in the gracious 
arrangements of God s providence favoured with the co 
operation of professing Christians, both in-doors and in the 
open air. One of these baptized since I came here by 
the American missionaries aids me regularly, and others 
from time to time. We have meetings in the chapel of 
Tai-Hang, where Dr. Young resides, but get greater 
numbers in the open air when giving addresses in the open 


places of the city. During this week I also went to the 
neighbouring country (on the island) among the villages, 
spending a night in one of these in the house of my ser 
vant, and preaching the word with my companions T. 
and K. in six different villages. . . . The work increases 
in interest and hopefulness. Thy kingdom come ! " 

Again on March 6th he writes : 

"On Tuesday the 24th February I again set out to visit 
some villages on the island of Amoy, and returned in 
much mercy on Tuesday the 2d, being absent seven 
nights. . . . The day we set out was the 5th of the first 
Chinese month, and as at this season the villages are full 
of people who have not yet returned to their usual em 
ployments, we had large audiences everywhere. We gen 
erally addressed five or six meetings in the course of the 
day, and in all must have made known something of the 
truth to at least two or three thousand people. . . . 
The people were everywhere friendly and attentive. We 
distributed a large number of tracts and hand-bill copies 
of the ten commandments. May the seed of the Word 
sown spring and bear fruit to the glory of God and the 
salvation of souls ! " 

In his next excursion (March i6th) he crossed over to 
the mainland directly opposite Amoy ; and in the course 
of seven days made a circuit of thirty villages, sowing 
everywhere plenteously the precious seed. Everywhere 
they were most kindly welcomed, everywhere met with 
numerous, willing, and often attentive audiences, were 
everywhere hospitably entertained by the people free of 
charge ; and such was the missionary s sense of the 

390 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1851-54- 

promising aspect of the field, and of the urgent need of 
additional labourers to reap the ripening harvest, that he 
gave a whole year s salary to the funds of the Committee 
to hasten on the work. 1 "Surely," said the convener in 
giving in the next report, " that field is ripe unto harvest, 
when the reaper sends home his own wages to fetch out 
another labourer!" 

The next year his expedition took a wider range, in 
cluding the great city of Chang-chow, already referred to 
as the chief centre of population in this part of the pro 

"Amoy, May i&h, 1853. Last month I had the privilege 
of paying a visit to Chang -chow-foo, a large city in this 
neighbourhood, at the distance of about forty English miles. 
We left Amoy on the morning of April 1 3, and returned here 
on the 26th, being absent about a fortnight, nine days of which 
were spent at Chang-chow, preaching to large and very in 
teresting audiences both inside and outside the city. A week 
or two before our going, two native Christians, of the Ameri 
can Mission here, had visited Chang-chow, and preached to 
crowds for a number of days with much encouragement; and 
as they were purposing to go again, at the earnest desire 
especially of one of them, it was arranged that I should also 
go, although there was some reason to fear that, unless God 
should graciously open our way, there might be some unwil 
lingness on the part of the authorities to allow a foreigner to 
pay more than a brief visit, or to preach at large to the people. 
To avoid difficulty as far as possible, it was arranged that we 
should live on the river, in the boat which carried us there, 
going on shore only to preach. On our arrival we immedi 
ately went on shore, and being at once surrounded by many 
people, we had a fine opportunity, within a few steps of our 

JEt. 36-39.] CHANG-CHOW. 391 

boat, of preaching the Word of Life fully and without hind 
rance. We continued thus to preach on the bank of the 
river for three days, going upwards from our boat in the 
morning, and downwards in the afternoon, and addressing 
large companies for three or four hours at a time, until we 
had exhausted all the suitable stations near the river. We 
then went inwards, but still outside the walls, and at the very 
first station at which we preached, a man came forward and 
pressed us to go further on, and preach again opposite his 
house. This man the following morning came and was with 
us at worship in our boat ; and when it began to rain, and 
our boat was more uncomfortable, the same individual opened 
his house to us, and here we stayed (making the man a small 
remuneration) for five days ; and going on from this as our 
head-quarters, still inwards, we enjoyed the fullest liberty, 
both within and without the city, of preaching to large and 
very much engaged audiences. I do not think, upon the 
whole, that I have spent so interesting a season, or enjoyed 
so fine an opportunity of preaching the Word of Life since 
I came to China, as during these nine days. The people 
were everywhere urgent in requesting that a place might be 
opened for the regular preaching of the gospel among them ; 
and I am glad to say that the American Mission here have 
already sent two of the members of the native church to open 
an out-station in this important and very promising locality. 
Since our return here there have also three individuals come 
here at their own expense, to inquire further into the nature 
of the gospel. The native Christians with me were the same 
with whom I went last year in making some visits to the 
neighbourhood; and I have pleasure in adding, that they 
seem to be moved by love to the Saviour, and to the souls of 
their fellow-countrymen, in giving themselves to this work." 

In a private letter of the same date, after referring more 
briefly to the above particulars, he adds, " We had all " 
(himself and three Chinese evangelists) "full work; for 

392 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1851-54- 

our meetings (of course in the open air) generally lasted 
three or four hours, becoming the longer the more inter 
esting. You would have rejoiced could you have seen 
me the last two evenings of our stay addressing a large 
and attentive audience until the moon was up (it generally 
fell to me to speak last) ; I felt thankful, indeed, in such 
circumstances that it was my privilege to be sent to 
China to preach Christ crucified as the power of God 
unto salvation to every one that believeth. The time at 
which we were thus engaged was just during the meeting 
of the English Synoti, and we may believe that in this the 
promise is fulfilled, While they are yet speaking, I will 
hear. " 

To any one who ever knew the writer of these lines, 
and who remembers how sparing he was of his words, and 
how jealously guarded in everything that related to him 
self, how little account too he made of mere surface 
appearances of interest and attention, it must be evident 
how much more is implied in such expressions as coming 
from him, than that which meets the eye. Evidently 
when he speaks thus his words must have been visibly 
telling on the hearts of his hearers, and he must have felt 
sure from the hushed silence and earnest look with which 
they listened to him, that a power was at work within 
them mightier than his words, and such as he had never 
known on Chinese soil before. At Canton he had com 
plained that though the Chinese listened with a sort of 
listless attention to the gospel message, it never seemed 
to "take hold" of the Chinese mind. It was clearly 
taking hold of the Chinese mind now. 

-ffit. 36-39.] TOKENS OF BLESSING. 393 

His power of access, indeed, to the confidence and 
regard of the Chinese people, and the influence he ex 
erted over them, seems to have been something remark 
able, and far beyond what one would ever gather from 
anything he ever said of himself. It was stated by one 
who knew him and his work in China well, that during 
the time of the insurgent movements in the Amoy district, 
" when no other European could venture out among the 
rebels, he was free to go where he liked : That s the man 
of the Book, they would say, he must not be touched. 
And once he had gone on one of his little tours, and as 
he did not come back for three weeks, his friends began 
to be quite afraid about him, when he appeared fat and 
well, having been fed up by a tribe he had got such access 
to, that they would scarcely let him away." Indeed the 
chief difficulty of his biographer arises from his rigid habit 
of understating, rather than amplifying everything that 
regarded himself, and confining himself not only to the 
real truth, but to the bare and naked truth. He had such 
a horror of the overcolouring of facts of which the advo 
cates of missions have been sometimes accused, that he did 
not always give to his statements the true and adequate 
colours of life, so that justly to estimate his work, we must 
often look at it rather as it was judged of by others, than 
as it was regarded by himself. 

The sequel of the history, as regards that brief day of 
grace for Chang-chow, is sad and tragical. In October 
1 3th of the same year he writes: 

"When I wrote in May, I made allusion to an interesting 
missionary visit which I had paid, in company with members 



of the native church here, to a large city in this neighbour 
hood Chang-chow. I also mentioned that the American 

Mission here had the view of establishing permanently an 
out-station there, and were about to send two of their native 
assistants for that purpose. The sequel to this proposal, 
which is of a very affecting kind, and very different from 
what we had looked for, I have not yet mentioned to you. 
About the middle of May the native assistant, whom I have 
alluded to as co-operating with me here, went to Chang-chow 
along with another belonging to the same mission, and 
rented, as a place of meeting, the house of the man whom 
I alluded to in my May letter as having, in April, received 
us into his house, and taken some interest in our work. 
They had gone but two days when the local rebellion broke 
out in this neighbourhood, and had had in Chang-chow 
but one Sabbath s services when the insurgents reached that 
city. The man who had rented them his house took part 
with the insurgents, which led the native brethren to remove 
their lodgings to another place, that they might not be in 
volved. When the insurgents had got possession of the city 
but two days, in consequence of their showing a disposition 
to rob and plunder, the populace on a sudden rose en masse 
upon them, and put nearly all who were within the city to an 
instant death! How little did we suppose when in April 
preaching the gospel in these streets, that in the course of a 
short month they were to be flowing with human blood ! At 
the time of this awful massacre both the native brethren from 
Amoy were within the city ; and as being strangers, from the 
same part of the country as the insurgents, they were in 
imminent danger of being reckoned as belonging to them, 
and sharing in their dreadful end. The one who is now here 
early saw his danger, and with difficulty made his escape, by 
dropping from the city walls. The other, a native of Canton 
province, was more fearless, being in company with some 
friends engaged in business in Chang-chow. He also did 
escape at this time, although not without much danger ; but 

JEt. 36-39.] TIME OF TRIAL. 395 

having delayed to leave the city, as his companion wished 
him, and return to Amoy, he was the following morning, on 
a sudden, arrested by a band of the populace, and, despite 
all his friends could do, was dragged before the mandarin, 
and instantly beheaded ! His companion having separated 
from him the day before this occurred, and with great diffi 
culty made his way home to Amoy, it was several weeks 
before we heard of the affecting event. Nor was this all, 
the man who had rented them his house, having openly 
joined the insurgents, was seized in the street by the populace, 
and publicly beheaded! This was the melancholy end of 
one who, though not a man of good character among his 
countrymen, had a few weeks before welcomed us in our 
mission, joined us in all our services, and seemed to have, at 
least, the joy of a stony-ground hearer, if nothing more. 
Since that time the people of Chang-chow city have been 
engaged in almost constant fighting with the insurgent party ; 
and although the insurgents have not been able again to 
recover the city, yet to the present hour it is so shut up, that 
almost no communication can be carried on between it and 
Amoy. The sufferings of its inhabitants have been, and still 
are, very great. A native of the city who had become in 
terested in the gospel message, and who, as well as other two, 
came down to Amoy in April on purpose to hear it more fully, 
was also in great peril of being seized and put to death, like 
the others. His house was surrounded by armed men, and 
he only made his escape by getting through the roof, and run 
ning along the tops of the houses ; with difficulty, after some 
weeks of wandering, he got here, and has remained under 
this roof since ; it being still unsafe for him to return home." 

But the fire thus kindled at Chang-chow was never 
wholly extinguished. Fanned by the occasional visits 
of other missionaries, and by the fostering care of the 
neighbouring native church of Chioh-bey in connection 
with the American Board, it still burned on with more or 

396 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1851-54- 

less of vitality and fervour through all the changes of an 
outwardly checkered and disastrous history. Persecution 
came, but only braced and purified the more the faith of 
the little flock. The house in which they were assembled 
was more than once assaulted by ruffians, the furniture 
broken, and the roof, door, and windows almost riddled 
with stones; yet the constancy of the believers remained 
unshaken, and the number of inquirers increased. At 
length "in January, 1862, Mr. Douglas visited the city in 
company with one of the American brethren, and had the 
privilege of baptizing six men, the first-fruits of this long 
and perilous sowing time of more than eight years, and 
soon after four more were baptized." 1 The last glimpse 
we have of Chang-chow is a singularly sad one. First 
taken by the Nanking rebels towards the close of 1864, 
and then retaken by the Imperial forces early in the next 
year, it suffered so terribly from the destructive violence 
of both, as to be reduced to a scene of utter desolation. 
"I remained," says one of the missionaries, who visited it 
soon after its recapture, "within the walls for three hours, 
and walked through a great part of the city. It is one 
mass of ruins, and I know it is within the mark for me to 
say that not ten houses out of a hundred are left standing. 
The large suburbs outside the west and south gates are 
entirely destroyed. There were a few persons inside 
attempting to clear away the rubbish; but, alas! how 
different from the streams and crowds of people I once 
had to jostle my way through ! I never saw a sacked city 

1 Narrative of the Mission to China, &c., by D. Matheson, Esq., 

pp. 46, 47. 

-ffit 36-39.] A SACKED CITY. 397 

before, and I trust I may never see another. No human 
being can give you an idea of the harrowing sight. Here 
and there we would come upon a woman sitting weeping 
over the ruins of what was once her home, weeping 
bitterly. On asking one or two such persons some 
questions, we would find that husband, sons, all were 
gone, and she alone left to mourn the bitter loss. We 
entered the once famed Chang-chow with a sad heart, and 
left it with a sadder." 

But there still linger amongst the ruins the remnants of 
a people whose hopes are not bound up with the wreck 
of their earthly homes, but who "look for a city which 
hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God." 

Of date March i2th, 1853, and exactly a month before 
his visit to Chang-chow, I find the following brief entry 
in his journal, in reference to a department of work of a 
very different kind, but which had been occupying much 
of his time and thoughts for several months past: 

"In the great mercy and by the gracious and constant 
aid of the Lord and Saviour I was enabled on the loth 
to complete the last revised copy of Bunyan s Pilgrim 
(ist part) in Chinese, which has occupied us from June 
ist, 1852, until now, with the exception of a month at the 
end of last summer, when through feverish sickness I was 
obliged to lay it aside. The whole has been looked over 
by Messrs. Doty and A. Stronach with their teachers, and 
the work has been benefited by a number of their 
suggestions. One hour after finishing the last sheet in the 
form in which it will be printed, I received from Shanghai 
a copy of the Pilgrim in Chinese, printed two years ago 

398 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1851-54. 

by Mr. Muirhead of the London Society, chiefly for the 
use of pupils. It is not, however, a continuous translation 
of the whole." This work was to him in a very eminent 
degree a labour of love. The admiration and love of 
early years grew upon him, as the studious care of a 
translator brought him into closer contact with the 
thoughts and more intimate sympathy with the spirit of 
the wondrous dreamer. It was a subject of continual 
interest to watch the effect of the mystic allegory on 
another mind, and especially on a Chinese mind. One 
graphic incident of this kind I remember his telling me 
a year or two afterwards. When occupied with the 
inimitable portraiture of Ignorance, the Chinese teacher, 
who was working with him, and who was then only half a 
Christian, was greatly taken with the flippant and copious 
talker, whose fluent tongue and knowledge of all subjects, 
physical and metaphysical, human and divine, positively 
enchanted him, and drew forth audible expressions of 
admiration and delight as he proceeded with his task; and 
it was only when the character had fully developed itself 
and the glittering tinsel fell off from the base metal beneath, 
that noisy approbation gave place to a silent thoughtful- 
ness which showed that the master had achieved his object. 
He was pleased also to mark how in several instances 
the imagery of the dream fell singularly in with some of the 
familiar incidents of Chinese life, as in the inscriptions set 
up by the wayside to commemorate important events, and 
admonish wayfarers. The book has been since appro 
priately embellished with a series of very spirited illustra 
tions by Mr. Adams, a Scottish artist, who has happily 


succeeded in adapting the incidents of the story to the 
characteristic physiognomy and costume of Chinese life. 

Another task of a similar kind in which he was engaged 
about this time, was the editing of a collection of hymns 
for Chinese worship, which from the first became a great 
favourite, especially with the children, and has since ap 
peared in improved and enlarged editions. During his 
visit to this country two years afterwards he used to talk 
with delight of the ardour with which the young and 
fervent converts used to recite or sing these hymns, 
especially a series of twelve didactic and practical rhymes 
composed by one of the London missionaries, and which, 
like the songs of the Reformation, had been much blessed 
in deepening in many hearts the lines of Christian doc 
trine and duty. One of these in particular I distinctly 
recal, with the very cadence of the tune to which he used 
to sing it to us in the characteristic style of his Chinese 
children in the faith : 


Strait is the gate, and rough the way 

That leads to heaven and endless day; 

Few enter in, and very few 

Their journey to the end pursue. 


For we with sin s desires must fight, 
Mouth, ears, and eyes must guard aright, 
In all we do must act by rule, 
Rein in the heart nor play the fool. 


We must not covet sordid pelf, 
Nor injure men to profit self, 
Must careful be to speak the truth, 
And far must flee from lusts of youth. 

400 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1851-54. 


We must not cast an envious eye 
On those whose earthly place is high, 
Nor look with proud and scornful thought 
On those who fill the meanest lot. 


This heart of pride must be laid low, 
We must love men, though hate they show; 
Serve God, though to our worldly loss, 
Believe in Christ, and bear his Cross. 


Alas ! weak men, devoid of grace, 
How can we run this holy race? 
Jesus, from heaven Thy Spirit send 
To guide and help us to the end ! 1 

Such strains as these, pealing in clear and strong, 
though slightly plaintive notes, 2 from the open verandah 
or housetop, would sometimes, as he told us, meet his ear, 
and be his first greeting as he returned at eventide from 
some distant field of labour. 

1 Words translated from the Chinese by W. C. Burns, and 
amended by Rev. J. D. Burns of Hampstead, 1855. 

2 The tendency of the Chinese to leave out all semitones imparts 
a character quite peculiar to the manner of rendering our familiar 




HITHERTO the abundant and patient labours which 
we have been recording had been rewarded only 
by hopeful appearances and fair promise, but the mission 
ary was soon to witness greater things than these. On 
the i8th of January, 1854, Mr. Johnston, shortly after his 
arrival, wrote : " God has tried the faith and patience of 
our brethren in denying them the privilege of gathering 
fruit in this life as yet, and at present we cannot even 
speak of the blossoms and buddings of the spiritual 
vintage." Most singularly it happened that at the very 
time when these words were written events were in pro 
gress in a village not twenty miles distant which rendered 
them no longer true, and which may be said to have 
opened a new era in the history of the mission. Mr. 
Burns left Amoy on the 9th January on another preaching 
tour, taking with him as usual as his companions and 
assistants two native evangelists, C.-C. and T.-C. The 
former had been with him before in almost all his evan 
gelistic journeys since he came to Amoy, and was a man 
in some respects remarkable. He had belonged in the 

days of his heathen darkness to the class, so numerous 

2 c 


in China, of fortune-tellers, and possessed in large mea 
sure the fortune-teller s fluency of speech and readiness 
of resource. Attracted by the preaching of the gospel 
at the American Chapel, he had had his heart touched 
by the simple home question of a native Christian, "Are 
you well? Is your heart at peace?" and sought and found 
the peace of God. Rejoicing in that pearl of great price 
himself, it was his delight henceforth to proclaim and 
commend it to others, and to this end he freely devoted 
those peculiar gifts which he had formerly employed in 
the pursuit of unlawful gain. He was quick, buoyant, 
nimble, fertile in argument, anecdote, and happy illustra 
tion, ever prompt for action, and ready with the fit word 
at the fitting time. The other, a soldier, had been sorely 
puzzled to understand how the Christian preachers should 
spend their days telling those gospel stories to the people, 
without ever asking for money or apparently seeking any 
earthly reward. He had often enough listened at the 
corners of the streets to the professional story-tellers of 
his own country, and well remembered how adroitly they 
used to stop at the most thrilling part of the tale, and 
keep the expectant crowd in suspense until they had been 
well paid to tell the rest. He resolved in his heart to 
get to the bottom of the matter. He listened with 
awakened interest to the Word of Life, found out the 
great secret, and became a teller of the good news of 
grace himself. 

The course of the missionary band lay first across the 
wide estuary which is closed in by Amoy and its com 
panion group of islands, amid scenery which the mission- 

JEt. 39-] PECHUIA. 403 

aries describe as remarkably resembling the Frith of 
Clyde, with " its beautiful variety of hill and island and far 
reaches of the sea, at one moment lost sight of and again 
seen stretching far round promontory, creek, and bay " 
then, for some eight or ten miles further along the course 
of a fine winding river. Their first halting-place was at 
a market-town on its banks of about 3000 inhabitants, 
called Pechuia (White-water Camp), and the commercial 
centre of a considerable district, full of agricultural villages, 
where their course was arrested in a manner to them as 
unexpected as it was delightful. " Here," says Mr. Doty 
of the American Mission, " they intended to begin work 
ing, expecting, after a few days at longest, to go forward, 
making known the gospel message as they might have 
opportunity, and just where the Master might providen 
tially lead them. But for two months continuously the 
brethren were shut up to this one place and the nearest 
villages, in holding forth day and night the Word of Life. 
Almost at the very first declaration of the truth, some 
persons were interested, and became earnest inquirers. 
From that time to the present the work has been gradually 
gaining in importance. Mr. Burns has rented a small 
building, the upper floor for his dwelling, while the lower 
is a preaching place. This is visited by many persons, 
who come in on market-days from all the surrounding 
region for purposes of trade. There are twelve such days 
in each month. Public worship is held on the Sabbath 
and every evening, and is attended by a goodly number 
of apparently interested listeners. Of a few, hope is 
indulged that they have really passed from death unto 


life. Numbers have renounced their idols. Some have 
burned and destroyed them. Others have given them 
to the brethren to be thus dealt with. Two of our native 
brethren are constantly employed in connection with 
Mr. Burns. 

"In March, Mr. Burns and two brethren made a tour 
of some weeks further in the interior, visiting some places 
to which they had been earnestly invited by persons who 
had visited them at Pechuia. While they were absent, 
two other native brethren continued the labours at the 
first place. At this time it was my privilege to make 
a short visit there. I found such an awakened interest 
and spirit of inquiry as I had never before met with 
among Chinese. It did seem as if the Holy Spirit was at 
work. The most marked cases are of young men of 
some education, and endowed with considerable zeal and 
energy. These are very active in efforts to awaken the 
attention of others. From the first there have been 
opposers of the movement, and recently there has been 
manifested a disposition to annoy and disturb the public 
worship. There are firm idolaters there, and the spirit of 
persecution is not wanting." 

Mr. Burns own statement is to the same effect, though 
couched, as his manner was, in scrupulously guarded and 
naked terms, and while giving some additional details, 
traces briefly the further progress of the work. "It is 
exactly four months," he writes, May 8th, 1854, "since I 
first set out this season on a missionary tour; and you 
are already aware that God so remarkably opened the 
door in the place to which we first went, that we found it 

^Et. 39.] THE JOY OF HARVEST. 405 

our clear duty to remain at that place as our head-quarters 
for a longer period than we had intended visiting the 
numerous villages and market-towns within our reach, 
while we carried on regular services at Pechuia, our cen 
tral station. The work there was so interesting that we 
felt it could not be abandoned, but as we were anxious to 
extend our efforts to one or two central positions farther 
inland, it was necessary that other agents should take our 
place in order to leave us free to go forward. Accordingly, 
when, two months ago, I returned from Amoy to Pechuia, 
an addition was made to the number of native assistants, 
and leaving two of these to occupy Pechuia, I proceeded 
on the pth of March farther inland, in company with the 
two native Christian companions with whom I had origin 
ally set out on the Qth of January from Amoy. The place 
to which we first went is a market-town, somewhat smaller 
than Pechuia, named Bay-pay (Horse-flat), and distant 
from the former place, across the hills, about seven English 
miles. To this place we had been invited by several per 
sons, and here we remained (well-lodged and free of rent) 
for eleven days, in the course of which we visited and 
preached at almost all the villages in the neighbourhood, 
from thirty to fifty in number. We were almost every 
where favourably received, and our message listened to 
with attention, although there were no cases, as at Pechuia, 
of persons coming out and declaring themselves on the 
side of the gospel. While at Bay-pay, we heard it reported 
that at Pechuia one family had publicly destroyed their 
idols and ancestral tablets (the latter the dearest objects 
of Chinese idolatry), and that another man had closed his 


shop on the Lord s-day, refusing admittance to a person 
who wished to trade with him. Both of these reports, so 
interesting to us, turned out to be true. 

"From Bay-pay we proceeded four or five English 
miles farther on to Poolamkio (South-bank Bridge). Here 
we were on the sea-coast, I suppose about fifteen miles 
south of the entrance to Amoy harbour. We were well 
received here also, and would have gladly remained for 
a week or two, proceeding still farther south, as we were 
invited to do, but our books, &c., were becoming few, and 
our lodging which would have been very comfortable 
had we had sole possession of it being partly occupied by 
opium-smokers and gamblers, we resolved, after a stay of 
only four days, on returning to Pechuia. On arriving, we 
found to our delight that the work there had made decided 
progress in our absence. The two native Christians 
(members of the American Mission Church at Amoy) 
whom we had left in charge, seem to have been much 
aided in teaching the people. The preaching room had 
been crowded every night to a late hour by from forty to 
sixty persons, and those who had from the beginning 
shown an attachment to the truth had evidently advanced 
in knowledge and earnestness of spirit, and resolved to 
obey the gospel at the risk of much reproach and opposi 
tion. In our absence the station had also had the benefit 
of a short visit from Mr. Doty of the American Mission. 
After returning from our inland tour, we continued our 
meetings at Pechuia with much encouragement, several 
members of the native church in Amoy having successively 
come out of their own accord to aid in the work. During 


the last two or three weeks, however, the aspect of things 
at Pechuia has been considerably changed; for while 
those on the side of the gospel seem to go on in a way 
that fills our hearts ; with thankfulness, and our mouths 
with praise, a disposition has been shown on the part of 
others to interrupt our meetings, which has obliged us at 
night to hold them upstairs, and more privately. The 
state of the weather also at this rainy season has prevented 
us from doing so much as before among adjacent villages. 
When I left Pechuia last Monday, it seemed that, includ 
ing young and old, there might be about twenty persons 
who have declared themselves on the side of the gospel, 
but some of these are children, and two or three are 
women whom we have not seen mothers who have re 
ceived the truth from their sons or husbands.. Among 
the number of those who are attached to the gospel are 
two whole families of six members each. The eldest son 
in one of these families, a promising youth of twenty, early 
showed much decision, having, on the birth-day of the 
god of the furnace] taken his god and put it in the fire. 
The idol having been but in part consumed, his mother 
discovered among the ashes a part of its head, and father 
and mother together beat their son severely; but some of 
the other Pechuia inquirers having gone to comfort the 
young man, and reason with his parents, their views 
underwent so sudden and entire a change, that in a day 
or two afterwards they, with their four sons, brought out 
all their idols and ancestral tablets and publicly destroyed 
them in the view of the people. The father I have two 
or three times met with, and he seems, along with his 


four sons (an interesting set of boys), to be in a promising 
state of mind. The other family is that of a respectable 
cloth-dealer, whose shop is in the same street with our 
lodging. This family has passed through remarkable 
trials, which seem to have prepared them for receiving the 
gospel on its first announcement, they having twice lost 
all their property by robbers; and on the second of these 
occasions having had their house burned, to cover the 
robbers retreat when the whole family were obliged to 
leap from an upper story, and yet escaped unhurt ! They 
are a very interesting family, and have in one point shown 
more decision than I have before seen in China, having 
(while yet only inquirers) shut their shop on the last eight 
Sabbaths, even although two of these Sabbaths were 
market-days. The family adjoining our house is literally 
divided two against three, and three against two. The 
elder brother and his wife oppose, they live by making 
paper images used in idolatrous processions, for burning 
to the dead, &c.; the mother, second son, with the 
youngest, who is a mere boy, are on the side of the 
gospel. The second son formerly made images with his 
elder brother, but has now given up his trade, and has 
begun a general business in one half of the shop which 
they have in common. It is curious thus to notice that 
on the Lord s-day the younger brother s side of the shop 
is closed, while the elder brother s side remains open! 
This young man, when we were absent farther inland, 
went down to Amoy with the desire of being admitted 
into the visible church; and though he has not yet been 
baptized, the American missionaries, who examined him, 

,Et. 39.] "A GOOD DAY." 409 

were astonished and delighted by the evidence which he 
gave them of knowledge, repentance, and faith; and 
would have admitted him a month ago, along with ten 
others (Amoy people), had it not been that my two native 
companions, returning the day before to Amoy, urged the 
expediency of delay." 

"Yesterday we had a good day here. It was one of the 
market-days (there are twelve such every Chinese month), 
and the people came in, as usual, in numbers to hear. 
Most of those interested in the truth were also present. 
The work of preaching all devolved on myself, and I felt 
supported more than usually. In the afternoon I went 
alone to visit a village in the neighbourhood : and in my 
absence a number of the inquirers, &c., met here for 
worship of their own accord. When I returned, they 
were joyfully engaged in singing hymns, studying the 
Scriptures, &c., and continued so during most of the 
evening. I have not witnessed the same state of things 
in China before. It is said among the people that we have 
some mode of enchanting those who come to us. In no 
other way can the blind world account for the impression 
made on some of those who are receiving the truth." 

" So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed." 
There was everywhere the stir and glad excitement of a 
busy harvest-field. There were all the signs of the coming 
of the kingdom of God after the true model of apostolic 
times; the general and wide-spread interest, individual 
decision and self-sacrifice, the division of families, the 
separation of brother from brother for Christ s sake and 
the gospel s, the test of persecution and the fierce opposi- 


tion of adversaries around the wide and effectual door, the 
joy of first love, and the spontaneous spread of the sacred 
influence from village to village, and from heart to heart. 
Well might Mr. Burns write, in regard to these encour 
aging tokens, in words which mean much as coming from 
him : " What I see here makes me call to mind former 
days of the Lord s power in my native land. In my own 
circle of observation I have hardly seen so promising an 
appearance of the coming of God s kingdom since I came 
to China. . . . You will see from what I have stated 
that there is indeed much to encourage prayer and effort 
in behalf of this benighted people; and that we have also 
cause for admiring thankfulness to our covenant God and 
Saviour. In my own experience the Lord s goodness is 
so great and unceasing, that while friends in Scotland may 
look upon me as an exile, I feel as much at home here as 
I would wish to do on this side of the Jordan." 

The cases of some of the individual converts who were 
the first-fruits of this gospel harvest are briefly referred to 
by Mr. Burns in one of the letters just quoted; but one or 
two additional instances may be given from the letters of 
other missionaries : 

" A family, consisting of an old father, the mother, He- 
Se, and their three sons, Gong-lo, Kwai-a, and Som-a, all 
became Christians. Even before their conversion there 
was much real union and affection between them. When 
the old father was going to Amoy to be baptized, Som-a 
asked to be allowed to accompany him for the same pur 
pose. He was told he was too young, and that he might 
fall back if he made a profession when he was only a 


little boy. To this he made the touching reply, Jesus 
has promised to carry the lambs in his arms. As I am 
only a little boy it will be easier for Jesus to carry me. 
No further words were needed ; Som-a accompanied his 
father, and was soon afterwards baptized. Mr. Johnston, 
who relates this story, adds that the mother, He-Se, re 
ceived all her Christian instruction from the male members 
of the family, as she dared not attend the public preaching, 
but her sons repeated to her much of what they heard, and 
she was the first female baptized in Pechuia. 

" Another mother said she, too, wished to be a member 
of the religion of Jesus, because it had made such a won 
derful change in her son. It must be a good thing/ she 
said, to be connected with such a person as Jesus. She 
received fuller instruction in consequence." 

A still more interesting case is that of Si-boo, who has 
since gone to labour as an evangelist among his own 
countrymen at Singapore : " On Mr. Burns first visit to 
Pechuia, he found amongst the foremost and most inter 
esting of his hearers, a youth of about eighteen or twenty, 
called Si-boo. Of stature rather under the average of his 
countrymen, with an eye and countenance more open 
than usual, and a free and confiding manner, he soon 
attracted the attention of our missionary. His position 
in life was above the class of common mechanics, and his 
education rather good for his position. His occupation 
was to carve small idols in wood for the houses of his 
idolatrous countrymen, of every variety of style and work 
manship, some plain and cheap, and some of the most 
elaborate and costly description. 


"Had Si-boo been of the spirit of Demetrius, he would 
have opposed and persecuted Mr. Burns for bringing his 
craft into danger. But instead of that, he manifested a 
spirit of earnest, truthful inquiry, although that inquiry 
was one in which all the prepossessions, and prejudices, 
and passions of mind and heart were against the truth 
an inquiry in which all the influence of friends, and all 
his prospects in life, were cast into the wrong balance. 
By the grace of God he made that solemn inquiry with 
such simplicity and sincerity, that it soon led to an entire 
conviction of the truth of our religion, and that to a de 
cided profession of his faith at all hazards; and these 
hazards, in such a place as Pechuia, were neither few nor 
small far greater than at Amoy, where the presence of 
a large body of converts, and a considerable English com 
munity, and a British flag, might seem to hold out a pro 
spect of both protection and support in time of need, 
though such protection and temporal aid have never been 
relied on by even our Amoy converts, still less encour 

" One of the first sacrifices to which Si-boo was called 
was a great one. His trade of idol carver must be given 
up, and with that his only means of support; and that 
means both respectable and lucrative to a skilful hand 
like him. But to his credit he did riot hesitate. He at 
once threw it up and cast himself on the providence of 
God, and neither asked nor received any assistance from 
the missionary, but at once set himself to turn his skill as 
a carver in a. new and legitimate direction. He became 
a carver of beads for bracelets and other ornaments, and 

SI-BOO. 413 

was soon able to support himself and assist his mother in 
this way. One advantage of this new trade was, that it 
was portable. With a few small knives, and a handful of 
olive-stones, he could prosecute his work wherever he 
liked to take his seat, and he frequently took advantage 
of this to prosecute his Master s work, while he was dili 
gent in his own. Sometimes he would take his seat in 
the " Good News Boat," when away on some evangelistic 
enterprise; and while we were slowly rowing up some 
river or creek, or scudding away before a favourable wind 
to some distant port, Si-boo would be busy at work on 
his beads; but as soon as we reached our destination, the 
beads and tools were thrust into his pouch, and with his 
Bible and a few tracts in his hand, he was off to read or 
talk to the people, and leave his silent messengers behind 
him. In this way our church had the benefit of many a 
useful evangelist, free of all charge on her funds; for Si-boo 
was far from being the only one who gave hours and often 
days of gratuitous service. Some of the same occupation 
as himself employed their time in the same way. 

"The love of Bible studies has always characterized 
the converts in China. Few, if any, were more studious 
and diligent than Si-boo, and few more successful than 
he. Morning, noon, and night, you might hear his clear 
and cheerful voice, reading aloud some portions of Scrip 
ture or Christian classic; or, in the same loud tone, for 
almost all Chinamen read aloud, and that often at the full 
pitch of their voice, committing to memory some favour 
ite passage of the Word of God. Even when busy at 
work, that extra energy which in him led sometimes to 


an exuberant playfulness, rather opposed to the stricter 
notions and more staid manner of some of his friends, 
was generally expended in committing to memory some 
verse of Scripture or favourite hymn, the latter being 
generally sung along with, or after the process of com 
mittal, so frequently, that many beside himself had the 
privilege of hearing both hymn and tunes if they were so 

" It was this diligent study and Christian consistency 
of character, during these years of his profession of the 
faith, and that intelligent acquaintance with the system 
of divine truth, which marked out Si-boo for the interesting 
mission on which he has been since sent, while his native 
energy and independence would both incline and enable 
him to undertake a work of enterprise and difficulty." 

It will have been noticed that the religious movement 
we are now describing was not confined to Pechuia, but ex 
tended more or less over the whole district, with its scat 
tered villages, of which it forms the centre. At Bay -pay 
especially, the work, if less striking in its manifestations at 
the outset, was in the end even more steady and progressive. 
It became speedily the seat of a fervent and prosperous 
church, which has continued to this day to grow in 
numbers, in zeal, and in fruitfulness. Tried in a more 
than usual degree by the blasts of persecution, it has 
nobly stood the test, and proved itself to be one of those 
trees of God s planting, "which shaking fastens more." 
It was constituted into a regular Christian community 
almost as early as its elder sister at Pechuia, and numbered 
in 1865 on its communion roll more than twice as many 


members. It was in reference to this favoured field of 
labour that one of the missionaries afterwards wrote, in 
returning from the delightful work of instructing inquirers 
and examining candidates for baptism: " After winding 
about among the hills, and on emerging from a narrow 
rocky path, the whole rich plain in which Pechuia stands 
burst at once upon our view. About two months before, 
in returning, the labourers were just beginning to let in 
the irrigating waters and to break up the hardened soil; 
but now it was all covered with the verdure of the grow 
ing rice a beautiful emblem of the spiritual harvest which 
the Lord was so rapidly gathering by our hands." 1 

Meanwhile at Amoy also the spiritual work of the mis 
sionaries grew sensibly in interest and fruitfulness. It 
seemed as if the mother church there had been moved to 
jealousy by the fervour and love of her own daughters in 
the faith. The earnest attention of hearers at all the 
chapels deepened, and inquirers multiplied. The arrival 
of one and another too from distant stations, who had tra 
velled all the way in search of the priceless pearl, must have 
chid the tardy steps of those who had heard the divine 
call before them, but were halting between two opinions : 

"We have great reason," writes Mr. Doty, "for thank 
ful praise to the God of grace for the tokens of his favour 
that we are enjoying in our work here. Knowing there 
were some persons waiting an opportunity to offer them 
selves as applicants for church-membership, some time in 
January we appointed a special meeting for the purpose. 
We were both surprised and cheered to find about thirty 

1 Letter of Rev. Carstairs Douglas. 


persons of both sexes, and of ages varying from twenty 
years up to near seventy, convened. Though among 
this number were many whom we cannot regard as proper 
subjects for church-membership, yet most have manifested, 
and still do continue to manifest, an interest in their soul s 

"We found that there was a spirit of inquiry and 
awakening, quite unknown to us as to its extent, among 
those who had been statedly hearing the word. From 
the time of that first meeting for conference and examina 
tion, we have felt it to be our duty to continue to hold 
similar services, and so to meet with those who wish in 
struction, or desire to be received to church-fellowship. 
A part of the time we have held the meeting once in two 
weeks, generally once a week, though in some instances 
twice. In these meetings we are usually engaged from 
three to four hours, during which time we may converse 
with or examine, as the case may be, three or four indi 
viduals in the most searching manner, both as to their 
experimental knowledge of the Holy Spirit s work in the 
heart, and their acquaintance with Christian doctrine. 
This brings us into the closest personal contact with their 
minds, and enables us to give instruction, to correct mis 
conceptions- of truth, guide the inquiring, encourage, warn, 
and exhort, so as to meet the difficulties of each individual, 
and the profit of all. Of those applying, after several ex 
aminations, ten were admitted to baptism on the last 
Sabbath of last month, March 26. Two of these are 
women, one aged sixty-eight years, the other forty-seven; 
while of the males, their ages range from twenty to sixty- 

Mt. 39.] VISIT TO SCOTLAND. 417 

four years. Our meetings continue to be attended with 
unabated solemnity and interest, and by increasing num 
bers. Among those recently baptized, as well as among 
those asking to be numbered among God s professing 
people, there are several cases manifesting more clearly 
the work of the Spirit with power than anything we have 
heretofore seen among the Chinese. Our brethren of the 
London Society s Mission are sharing largely in this blessed 
visitation. They have recently received seventeen, nine 
of whom were women, to church-fellowship, and numbers 
more are asking for the same privilege." 

It was amid exhilarating influences and prospects 
like these that Mr. Burns made a brief visit to this coun 
try during the summer and autumn of 1854. The occa 
sion of his journey was a sad one. His valued colleague 
Dr. Young, had at the close of the previous year suffered 
a heavy affliction in the unexpected removal of an endeared 
partner, whose life had seemed alike invaluable to himself 
and to the cause for which he laboured; and though he 
seemed at first to rally from the blow, it soon appeared 
that he had received both in mind and body so severe a 
shock as to render a return to his native land for a season 
indispensable. It was necessary that some one should 
accompany him on the voyage, and it was decided after 
brief conference that Mr. Burns should undertake that 
duty. How tenderly he watched over his friend during 
what was to both a singularly trying journey, and how 
lovingly he cared for those dear to him after his early 
and sudden removal, it is not for me to tell; but it will be 
remembered in his behalf in the great day. Dr. Young 

2 D 




died at Musselburgh on the nth of February, 1855, hav 
ing laboured only for four years in the work to which he 
had devoted himself; but having accomplished much in 
little time. He will be ever remembered with honour, as 
one of the first pioneers and patient sowers in a field of 
toil, of which he was only beginning to reap the fruit when 
his Master summoned him away. Many in Scotland will 
remember the Chinese Christian nurse who accompanied 
him to Edinburgh in charge of his child, and who was 
one of the first-fruits of his faithful labours in China. She 
had been baptized the previous year along with her own 
son and fifteen others at Amoy. " She was, we believe, 
the first converted Chinese woman that had been in Scot 
land. She could not escape observation as she sat in the 
church-pew, with deep thought on her countenance, 
poring over the Chinese hymn-book, bound in black, 
which she held in her dark bony hand. A red rose, after 
the fashion of her country, set in evergreen leaves, on the 
knot of her jet hair, tightly combed back, relieved the 
brown face almost grim with gravity. Her black peering 
eyes watched the preacher. The unknown tongue did not 
weary her. She was in the house of God and among the 
friends of Jesus, and longed all the week long for the 
Lord s-day. When greeted by any friend at the close of 
the service, her face could hardly be recognized as the 
same. Her sparkling eye, and a look of laughter irradi 
ated it all over. When asked if she did not weary in this 
country, she said to the missionary, Here where I can 
speak so little to man, I speak the more to God. At 
leaving Edinburgh she said she had been happy there, 


but she knew it was because she loved the Saviour she 
had received so much kindness. 

" Those who remained after the crowded meeting in St. 
Luke s Church, can never forget the animated dialogue 
carried on in Chinese between Mr. Burns and Boo-a, to 
whom it was very trying to appear in the great assembly, 
but for the willingness she felt to profess her faith in 
Christ before her Scottish brethren, one of whom had first 
carried the gospel to her family in China. Her son had 
already been baptized; but when her daughters were 
mentioned she pointed to her brow, where the water of 
baptism had been sprinkled, and sorrowfully shook her 
head. The Sabbath before her departure she sat down 
at the Lord s table, by her own earnest desire, and much 
enjoyed the ordinance. There the disciples of Jesus 
from the east and the west, the north and the south, can 
meet and understand the common language of its sacred 
symbols, feeding through them on the one Saviour, even 
while the barrier of varied tongues prevents other inter 
course." 1 

In the meanwhile Mr. Burns was actively engaged in 
endeavouring to extend and deepen the interest in the 
Chinese cause, which had already begun to be felt in 
Scotland, and which had shortly before led to the forma 
tion of an auxiliary society in aid of the English mission. 
He sought especially to engage the interest of those con 
gregations amongst whom he had chiefly laboured in 
former years, and who would thus most readily respond to 

1 China and the Missions at Amoy, with Notice of the Opium 
Trade. By George F. Barbour, Esq. Edinburgh, 1855. 


his calls both by active efforts and by prayers. Those 
who then renewed their acquaintance with him were struck 
with the change which so short an interval of years had 
made upon him. The effects of a tropical climate, com 
bined with almost incessant and exhausting labours, had 
sensibly told upon the vigour of a frame, which the rigours 
of a Canadian winter had already partially broken. The 
fresh, sanguine, youthful, and even boyish look, which his 
early hearers remembered so well, had given place to an 
aspect of ripe and almost fading manhood, which seemed 
to tell of the lapse not of six but of twenty years. His 
countenance was sallow, his brow furrowed, his head tinged 
with gray, and his eye if still bright was bright with a 
milder brightness. His spirit too had become riper and 
more mellow. Time and experience had wrought in him 
a gracious sweetness and human kindliness of temper, which 
in the young Boanerges were less conspicuous. He was 
more genial, more loving, more freely communicative and 
companionable, less restrained and austere, than in former 
days. There was less fire perhaps, but even more fervour; 
less of the Baptist more of the Christ. It seemed as if 
the exalted tone of Christian devotedness which he ever 
sustained were now less with him a matter of effort and 
struggle, and more of a holy habit in which grace had 
become as a second nature. Comparative exile too from 
the household of faith, amid heathen scenes and heathen 
faces, made his heart warm towards his Christian brethren, 
and pour itself forth in fuller loving converse, as one that 
felt more than ever at home. "His intercourse with us 
in private," writes his esteemed brother-in-law, the Rev. 


Thomas Bain of Cupar Angus, "was of a much more 
genial and social character, while at the same time equally 
hallowed and Christ-like. He took great interest in the 
children, taking down all their names that he might remem 
ber them individually in prayer." His preaching too was 
considerably altered. The fiery intensity and somewhat 
spasmodic energy of former days had given place to a more 
full and equable flow of spiritual instruction and fervent 
appeal; while the frequent allusion and illustrative anecdote 
from the scenes of his distant field of labour, perpetually 
reminded the hearer that the evangelist had become the 
missionary. In every other way too we were reminded 
of this. While his bodily presence was in Scotland, it 
was evident that his heart and more than half his thoughts 
were still in China. He talked of Chinese scenes, sung 
Chinese hymns, recited far into the night Chinese chapters 
and psalms, and abounded in details of Chinese customs, 
traits, and ways of life, such as he too seldom indulged in 
in his letters. Nor was he forgotten by those whom he thus 
so continually remembered. Of this he received a pecu 
liarly touching proof in a letter addressed to him as their 
spiritual father by the infant church at Pechuia, which in 
the naive simplicity and freshness of its fervent and loving 
words breathes the very spirit of apostolic times, and which 
well deserves a permanent record in connection with his life 
and labours. The benignant look of strange delight with 
which, one morning in the Free Church manse at Kilsyth, 
he pored over this precious scroll, and deciphered and ex 
plained to us its mystic hieroglyphic lines, is to me a picture 
never to be forgotten. It was to the following effect : 



" Given to be inspected by Mr. Burns and all the disciples. 

"We, who have received the grace of Jesus Christ, send a 
letter to pastor Wm. Burns, (///. shepherd-teacher Pin-ui- 
//;). We wish that God our Father and the Lord Jesus 
Christ may give to all the holy disciples in the Church grace 
and peace. Now we wish you to know that you are to pray 
to God for us; for you came to our market-town, and unfolded 
the gracious command of God, causing us to obtain the grace 
of God. Now, as we have a number of things to say, we 
must send this communication. We wish you deeply to 
thank God for us, that in the intercalary seventh month and 
thirteenth day, pastor Johnston (///. shepherd-teacher Jin- 
sin) established a free school here; there are twelve attending 
it. Formerly, in the third month, a man, whose name is 
Chun-sim, belonging to the village of Chieng-choan (pure 
fount village), heard you preaching in the village of Hui-tsau 
(pottery village). Many thanks to the Holy Spirit who 
opened his blinded heart, so that in the seventh month he 
sent a communication to the church at Amoy, praying the 
brethren to go to the village. They went and spoke for several 
days, and all the villagers with delighted heart listened. Also 
in the town of Chioh-bey, the Holy Spirit is powerfully working 
(lit. influencing, moving) ; the people generally (lit. man, 
man) desire to hear the gospel. The brethren and mission 
aries have gone together several times; and now, in the village 
of Ka-lang, there are two men, CKeng-soan and Sui-mui, who 
are joining heart with the brethren in prayer. Teacher ! we, 
in this place, with united heart, pray, and bitterly (i.e. ear 
nestly) beg of God to give you a level plain (i.e. prosperous 
journey) to go home, and beg of God again to give you a 
level plain (good journey) quickly to come. Teacher ! you 
know that our faith is thin (i.e. weak) and in danger. Many 
thanks to our Lord and God, who defends us as the apple of 
the eye. Teacher ! from the time that we parted with you in 
the seventh month, we have been meditating on our Lord 
Jesus love to sinners, in giving up His life for them ; also 


thinking of your benevolence and good conduct, your faith in 
the Lord, and compassion for us. We have heard the gospel 
but a few months; our faith is not yet firm (Hi. hard, solid). 
Teacher ! you know that we are like sheep that have lost 
their shepherd, or an infant that has lost its milk. Many 
thanks to the Holy Spirit, our Lord, morning and evening 
(i.e. continually), comforts our hearts, [and gives us] peace. 
And in the seventh month, the twenty-fourth day, the brethren 
with united heart prayed, and shedding tears, bitterly begged 
of God again to send a number of pastors, quickly to come, 
again to teach the gospel. We wish that God our Father 
may grant this prayer, which is exactly that which the heart 
desires, (i.e. Amen.)" 

Then follow nine names, being those of all the members 
of the church at Pechuia at the date when the letter was 
written. It was learned afterwards that they had subse 
quently addressed a similar appeal to the American mis 
sionaries, every sentence of which, Mr. Talmage writes, 
was prayed over. " They would write a sentence, and 
then pray, and then write another sentence, and then pray 
again." Well might an ardent friend of the cause ex 
claim in reference to this deeply affecting incident: 
" Never did a more touching appeal come from a heathen 
land for ambassadors of Christ ! China is thus in truth 
stretching out her hands to God ! " 

While the native Christian disciples thus spoke for 
themselves, the most cheering tidings also reached him 
from other quarters of their steadfastness and joy, as well 
as of the extension of the sacred influence throughout the 
district around. In a letter which reached Mr. Burns 
while still in Scotland, Mr. Doty writes : 

"The little church at Pechuia continues to dwell in 


love, and to become more and more established in the 
truth. There is still much of the same spirit of prayer and 
hungering after the word. . . . But what shall I tell 
you of the Lord s visitation of mercy at Chioh-bey? 
Again, truly, are we as those that dream. The general 
features of the work are very similar to what you witnessed 
at Pechuia. The instrumentality has been native brethren 
almost entirely. Attention was first awakened in one or 
two by I-ju and Tick-jam, who went to Chioh-bey to 
gether, the former with the opium pills. This was two 
or three months ago. m This was followed up by repeated 
visits of other brethren from Pechuia and Amoy. Shortly 
the desire to hear the Word was so intense, that there 
would be scarcely any stop day or night; the brethren in 
turns going, and breaking down from much speaking in 
the course of three or four days, and coming back to us 
almost voiceless. An establishment has been rented in 
extent nearly equal to that at Pechuia. Here daily and 
almost hourly the Word is preached, the Scriptures 
studied, and prayer and praise offered. There are some 
fifteen persons who seem to have been spiritually wrought 
upon, several of whom give pleasing evidence of regenera 
tion. Among these is one of the persons rescued and 
saved from the water and death, at the slaughter on 
retaking Amoy. He was healed on board the hospital 
junk, and is the same person, I conjecture, who told you 
or Dr. Young that, as he was about to be executed, he 
prayed to Jesus. He says he has been praying ever 
since, especially that Jesus would establish a church at 
Chioh-bey, that he might enjoy the means of grace. 

-fit. 39-] RETURN TO CHINA. 425 

There are several persons interested in villages around 
who come to town to spend the Sabbath. Judging from 
the visit of last week, I do not see but necessity is laid 
upon us to arrange for their being received into the visible 
church. Still, what are we to do becomes a serious ques 
tion. We are already taxed beyond time and strength, 
and cannot give adequate pastoral care to the flocks 
already gathered; shall we add another? But I won t 
close despondingly, knowing, as I do, that Jesus knows 
and will care for His own. He will provide. Praise 
Him, and pray for greater blessings still." 

Such good news as these from the far country of his 
adoption must have been to the missionary "as cold water 
to a thirsty soul," and would make him eagerly long, to 
return to the work from which he had been so abruptly 
called away. He sailed again for China in the ship 
Challenger on the Qth March, along with the Rev. Carstairs 
Douglas, a distinguished alumnus of Glasgow University 
and of the New College, Edinburgh, who had devoted 
himself to the Chinese cause, and who was ordained by 
the Free Church Presbytery of Glasgow on the 2ist of 
February, 1855, 



T NSTEAD of resuming at once his interrupted labours 
JL in the province of Fo-kien, Mr. Burns proceeded 
in the first instance to the north, with the view of attempt 
ing if possible to reach the head-quarters of the Taeping 
rebels, then established at Nanking, and at the very crisis 
of their singular and mysterious career. The most con 
tradictory rumours had prevailed with regard to the real 
character and probable result of that movement, and 
especially as to the relation of its leaders to the Christian 
faith; and a strong desire existed in many quarters that 
some of the missionaries then in China should put them 
selves in communication with them, with the view of at 
once ascertaining the real state of the case, and taking 
advantage of any opportunities which might present them 
selves for furthering the Christian cause. The difficulties 
in the way of such an undertaking were notoriously very 
great, and Mr. Burns was evidently not sanguine as to its 
prosperous accomplishment; but still he deemed it his 
duty, according to his wont, resolutely to make the 
attempt, and thus prove whether it were the will of God 
or no. The expedition proved unsuccessful; but the 


account he gives of it, written sometime after, is interest 
ing, and may be appropriately here introduced, as con 
tinuing in the most authentic form the thread of our 
narrative : 

" I see from the Witness of May 8th, received to-day, 
that in a reference made to a letter from Amoy, it is said, 
Mr. B. preached for some days to crowds of the gay 
inhabitants of this city (Soo-chow\ on his return from an 
attempt to reach the patriot camp at Nanking. This state 
ment is incorrect, as I only passed through the suburbs 
of the city in a boat, and this under the surveillance of 
mandarin officers, who did not, however, hinder the dis 
tribution of books and tracts as we passed along. As, for 
important reasons, I forbade at the time any account 
of this attempt to reach Nanking being published at 
Shanghae, and when writing home I purposely made the 
most meagre allusion to it, it is no wonder if misstate- 
ments more important than the one above quoted should 
be made by any one who had occasion to refer to the 
matter. It occurs to me that now it may not be without 
use to take this opportunity of giving some details regard 
ing that journey, as it was one on which, though it failed 
as regards its primary object, I experienced more than 
usual marks of the Lord s gracious care and guidance. It 
was about the beginning of August, 1855, ten days after 
reaching Shanghae from England, that, in company with 
a Chinese servant from the neighbourhood of Shanghae, 
and who having gone with a missionary (Mr. Milne) to 
England, returned with Mr. Douglas and myself in the 
Challenger j I set out in a woo-sung boat to try whether 

428 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1855-58. 

the way were open to reach the insurgent camp. I went 
in my own dress, and had resolved that unless permitted 
to proceed without disguise or artifice, I should return, or 
rather confine my efforts in making known divine truth 
to those whom we should meet on the way, or who should 
hinder us from going on to the desired destination. After 
proceeding rather slowly, I think for three days and a half, 
up the Yang-tze-Kiang, we were on a Saturday favoured 
with a prosperous wind, which bore us rapidly on against 
the stream of the river, and brought us early in the after 
noon to Tan-T oo, a. town not far below Chin-keang-foo, 
and situated at one of the openings of the Great Canal 
into the Yang-tze-Kiang. Our getting thus far without 
impediment was not a little remarkable, for we had already 
passed two Imperial outposts, and at Tan-T oo our boat 
was lying in the midst of a mandarin encampment. How 
was this, you will ask? We were just passing the head 
of a large island in the river, and running with a fresh 
breeze towards Pagoda Hill (I suppose from ten to twenty 
miles below Ckin-keang-foo), when, at the mouth of a 
creek on the south side of the river, we met the first trace 
of the Imperial forces encompassing the insurgents. A 
number of boats were moored here, and as we approached 
one of them pushed off to meet us and examine what we 
were. I felt that now, unless God remarkably favoured us, 
our journey must at once come to an end, and, hid in the 
cabin of the boat, I prayed that the Lord would graciously 
interpose. The boat pushed out to meet us, waving a flag 
and calling us to wait and give account of ourselves; but 
the boatmen, no doubt alarmed, told them they had a 


foreigner on board, and ran on. The guard-boat, whether 
satisfied or not, saw that it was too late to overtake us, 
and, no doubt reporting that all was right, returned to 
their station. Shortly after this, in consequence of a bend 
in the river at Pagoda Hill, the boat made a tack towards 
the north bank, and this course I saw would directly bring 
us to a mandarin encampment with a guard-ship anchored 
in front of it. I might have told the boatman to make his 
course short and try to keep clear of further inquiries, but I 
felt this would have been a subterfuge; and so running 
straight on, I soon heard the cry of voices inquiring what 
we were, the boatmen also were calling loudly that I should 
come out and take the responsibility on myself. I now ex 
pected we should be boarded and detained; but coming 
out I found that there was no small boat near, but only a 
company of twenty or thirty persons looking on us from 
the mandarin vessel. I almost involuntarily bowed to 
them; they graciously returned the salutation; the boat 
was put about, and we were gone again upon our course 
without remark or hindrance ! Our character was now of 
course established, by having passed successfully these 
outer guards, and about three P.M. we took up our place 
at Tan-T oo without inquiry made, among the boats of the 
Imperial soldiers. As the day was Saturday, I resolved 
to spend the Sabbath at Tan-T oo, and here my com 
panion and myself (he was then considerably interested in 
the gospel, and is now a professing Christian and assistant- 
preacher in the hospital of the London Mission at Shang- 
hae) on Saturday afternoon and the whole of Sabbath 
had a full opportunity of making known the truth and 

430 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1855-58. 

distributing books both among the inhabitants of the 
town and the mandarin soldiers, who were congregated 
to the number of some thousands in it. No one seemed 
to wonder at our visit, or to suspect that we had any 
design of going among the insurgents. Indeed the people 
were afraid to allude to the insurgent party at all. The 
town had been already in their hands and might soon be 
so again. Our boatmen, who had been prevailed on to 
come thus far, now obstinately refused to proceed farther. 
We had often reasoned with them on the subject; but, to 
cut the matter short, the head-man (there were three boat 
men), on our getting moored at Tan-Too said, somewhat 
curtly, Now, if you want to go to Nanking, you can get 
out and walk. No offer of reward would induce them 
to go a step further. They said it was just possible that 
we might get to Nanking alive; but that I, and still more 
they, could not hope to return. Their boat would be lost, 
&c.; but it was said, You will be remunerated. They 
replied, Of what use will money be when we have lost our 
lives? Finding them thus decided, and seeing no other 
way open consistently with truth and integrity, I arrived 
unwillingly at the conclusion that, if after the Sabbath 
was past, circumstances wore the same aspect, this attempt 
to reach the insurgents must be abandoned. I had asked 
the boatmen where they would propose to go in case of 
not proceeding farther towards Nanking. They replied, 
We will return to Shanghae by the Great Canal (literally, 
as they call it, Transport-provision-River ). This course 
recommended itself as second best, if the original one 
must be abandoned; and so, early on Monday morning, 

J&t. 40-43-] THE GREAT CANAL. 43 1 

finding the way to Nanking closed, we passed through Tan- 
Too into the Great Canal on our homeward route. In 
entering the canal we had to pass a custom-house, but a 
bow to the officials from our boat, coupled no doubt with 
the thought that if we had come too far from home, we 
were at any rate now turning the head homewards this 
sufficed to gain us a free entrance. We now went on to 
the district city of Tan-yang, distant about twenty miles. 
We were examined at the custom-house as we arrived, and 
such a visit from a foreigner seemed to excite surprise. 
We were however going, as every one could see, in the 
right direction (Shanghae), and had come from an unsus 
pected quarter, Tan-Too; thus we were allowed to pass, 
and a present of books was received with politeness. After 
passing a little farther along the canal, which skirts I 
believe the south and east of the city, we brought to near 
the south gate, and from the boats and the population on 
shore were soon surrounded by a large crowd, eager to 
look at the foreigner (an uncommon sight in these parts), 
and also to get possession of the books we were distri 
buting. At this time I had but an imperfect knowledge 
of the Shanghae colloquial, and that would but poorly 
serve here, owing to a difference of dialect. Still I could 
say a few things which they understood their anxiety to 
comprehend no doubt quickening their apprehension. I 
would have got on to all appearance well in this work, 
but a drawback arose through the uninvited assistance of 
a number of Canton men soldiers or followers of military 
officers from the south. Having some greater acquaint 
ance with foreigners than the natives of the locality, and 

432 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1855-58. 

finding I could converse with them in their own dialect, 
they were too officious in their friendship to me, as well 
as harsh and overbearing to the crowds who pressed 
forward to get books. To avoid the crowd, they almost 
forced me on board one of their mandarin boats; but I 
had hardly got on board until the crowd pressed after us 
down the sloping bank, and by the pressure behind, those 
next to the water were in danger of getting a plunge. One 
man went down, and on seeing this I rushed on shore, 
and with some effort regained a position on the level 
ground. Perhaps it w,as on account of this little confusion, 
that when I got to our boat I found that some people 
had been there from the mandarin s office requesting that 
we should remove farther off from the city. The boat 
men wished to get quite away; but after moving on to 
near the east gate, they consented to bring to there for the 
night. The following morning I went on shore with 
books, and walked along the bank of the canal by the 
foot of the city wall towards the south gate, where we had 
been the previous day. Here I was met by a kind of 
policeman, who asked me what my object was in coming, 
and said the district magistrate wished to know. Having 
had little previous acquaintance with Chinese mandarins, 
and having a good supply of books, I said that if the 
mandarin wished to make any inquiries about me, I would 
be happy to go in person with him to his office. He said 
this would be still better, and so we walked on, in by the 
gate, through streets and fields, and at last to the office. 
I did not see the magistrate, but great numbers of people 
collected, both officials and people from the town, and to 


them, while in waiting, I had opportunity of giving books 
and saying a few words in regard to the first principles of 
divine truth. After some delay, one or two of the magi 
strate s assistants came out to inspect me, and having asked 
through the policeman who brought me there, whether I 
was willing to leave their city, the same policeman con 
ducted me through the city by another route to the east 
gate, and so back to our boat. It seemed for the moment 
that the matter was ended, and that we had nothing to do 
but to go on our way peaceably; but after a short time 
the original policeman and one or two more came and 
asked my companion (he had not been with me in the 
city, I was alone) to go on shore as they wanted to speak 
to him. He was about to go, when I became alarmed, 
and said to them that if any one was to be beaten (signing 
to that effect) it was I and not he, and that if he went I 
must go also. They said there was no fear of that, and 
that if I went also it would be better. I got some books 
and we went ashore outside the east gate. In a small 
hall we found an assistant magistrate seated in full dress 
waiting for us. We were called to sit together at his left 
hand, the place of honour, and he proceeded to ask at 
my companion about me and our objects in coming. In 
answer to the inquiry who I was, we put down in writing 
that I was a disciple of Jesus and a publisher of [His] 
religion. He saw I was a foreigner, but never thought of 
asking to what particular country I belonged, and in 
writing we did not think of making reference to this. 1 
He said with Chinese politeness, that as on the way to 

1 I always told I was an Englishman. 

2 E 

434 LIFE OF REV> WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1855-58. 

Shanghae people might give us trouble, an escort would 
be sent with us ! and that they would very soon be ready 
to set out. I expressed the hope that they would not 
prevent us from distributing our books. He said that full 
liberty would be given us to do this. We then returned 
to our boat, the original policeman and another remaining 
on board to see that we did not get out of sight. We 
should have remained here until our escort was ready, but 
the poor people were so clamorous for books that the ire 
of the old policeman was aroused, and at last, when all 
other means failed, he ordered the boatman to move on 
for about a mile or so from the city. All the way we were 
followed on the banks by earnest applicants for books, 
and it was truly amusing to see the policeman at one time 
chiding and remonstrating with the people for thus follow 
ing us, and then once or twice when his eye fell on an 
acquaintance among the applicants, his zeal for his office 
was forgotten, and he came in to get from us a large book 
for his friend! At last when we had got to a considerable 
distance from the city, the evening was falling, and as we 
had neither wine nor opium for the policeman, he thought 
of going back to the city, got his arms full of books for 
his friends and left us. Poor man ! he had not gone far, 
we were told, until the people mobbed him and took his 
books from him. The sight of this poor people, so eager 
to get our books, but alas ! so little able to understand 
them, was fitted to affect the heart. May the day soon 
come when the Christian teacher shall have liberty to go 
and make known to them fully the love of God in the gift 
of His Son for sinners, and the power of the blood of 

JEt. 40-43.] SCRAMBLE FOR BOOKS. 435 

Jesus to cleanse from all sin. After the policeman left us 
we had still many applicants for books; our boatmen 
moved on, and in their eagerness to gain their object, 
several from time to time went into the water and swam 
to our boat (a distance of only a yard or two). But how 
could you give a book to a man who had to swim with it 
on shore? the book, one would think, must get wet. But 
nay, the Chinese are in many things singular; here was a 
new expedient. The swimmer got his book, placed it on 
his brow, made it firm there by his tail tied round his 
head, and swam to the bank ! As it was becoming dark 
we reached a market-town extending for some distance on 
both sides of the canal, and here no sooner had we arrived 
than our coming became known (I know not how), and 
from that moment onward until our stock of books was 
more than two-thirds exhausted, we were beset by crowds 
of applicants, and among them a larger number than 
usual of respectable people, and even several Buddhist 
priests. It was well nigh midnight when our escort two 
retainers of the mandarin s office made up to us here in 
their boat. They seemed alarmed lest we should have 
got beyond their reach, and were proportionably glad to 
find us here quietly waiting them. We were glad also 
that our book distribution had advanced so rapidly during 
the short respite allowed us. Our escort were intelligent 
men, and conversed with us at length in our boat before 
going to rest in their own. Next day we moved on to the 
inferior department city of Chang-chow, where our escort 
was changed, those from Tan-yang returning home, and 
two from Chang-chow accompanying us to the next 

436 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1855-58. 

city, viz. the district city of Woo-seih, like Chang-chow 
situated on the banks of the Great Canal. Here again 
our conductors gave place to others, or rather, I think, to 
one only, who the following day accompanied us to the 
famed city of Soo-chow, the allusion to which in the 
newspaper you have sent me has given occasion for this 
unusually long narrative. The stage from Woo-seih to 
Soo-chow was rather longer than usual, and the afternoon 
was so advanced when we reached one of the principal 
city gates, that our escort was just in time to get in before 
the gate was shut. In the former times of China s peace, 
and Soo-chow s famed grandeur, the gates would not shut 
so early as now, when the sound of rebellion is heard so 
near as at Nanking arid Chin-keang. It was in passing 
through a long suburb on our way to the city gate that 
we had an opportunity of witnessing, in the many gaily 
decorated pleasure-boats we passed, evidence at once of 
the wealth and the moral pollution of this famed city. It 
was during this transit, too, that in this crowded street of 
4 Vanity Fair we distributed the word of life in the form 
of tracts and copies of the Scripture. Our escort, on this 
occasion an old man, not so lettered as some of his 
predecessors, was most diligent in this work, aiding us in 
it as if for this alone he had been sent. Some came in 
boats to get books, and some reached out with bamboo 
basket-hooks from their doors and windows opening to 
the canal. (These basket-hooks they use for picking up 
things from the water.) This, alas! was all that we were 
able to do at Soo-chow; others have been able to make a 
somewhat longer stay, and to do more, and the time is 

JEt. 40-43.] RETURN TO SHANGHAE. 437 

coming fast, we trust, when Soo-chow, like Corinth, will 
receive the gospel, and many of its people exchange their 
luxuries for higher and more enduring pleasures, being 
washed and sanctified and justified in the name of the 
Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. 

"Here I might close this narrative, but as the sequel 
embraces some circumstances possessed of a certain 
interest, and which I have never till now alluded to in 
writing, I shall proceed with the remainder as briefly as I 
can. As I have mentioned above, our escort reached 
Soo-chow just in time to get into the city before the 
gates closed. It was perhaps on this account that some 
delay had taken place in appointing those who were to 
succeed, and next morning, when the usual hour for start 
ing had passed, no escort appeared. Our boatmen did 
not think it needful to wait any longer, and moved on 
leaving them to follow. We felt the rather free to do this 
as the day was Saturday, and on the previous day we had 
told our escort that on the following day, the Christian 
Sabbath, we would not travel, but rest at K wan-shan, the 
next city on our way, and the only other we had to pass 
before reaching Shanghae. Moving on we arrived at 
K wan-shan early in the afternoon, and spent the re 
mainder of the day, and also the whole of the Sabbath, in 
preaching and book distribution outside two of the city 
gates. No escort appeared, we did not regret their 
absence, and on Monday morning we left for Shanghae, 
where we arrived on Tuesday with no other event than 
that on the night previous we had a visit from thieves, 
who, at the place where we had to bring to, frequently 

438 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1855-58. 

take advantage of the shallowness of the water to pilfer 
from boats. The head boatman knew our danger, and 
enjoined on all to sleep wakefully, never proposing how 
ever that we should watch in turns. For a while we were 
wakeful, but then we all slept, and no one awoke until 
both the boatmen and ourselves had been partly robbed. 
We had been absent a fortnight from Shanghae, and 
returned rejoicing in the Lord s mercy throughout our 
journey, and not least in this that the mandarin officers 
had (as we supposed) ceased to follow us, and so per 
mitted us to end it peacefully. Soon after, I again set out 
to another part of the country, ready to forget the matter 
as one of the things that were behind, but on returning 
to Shanghae, I was informed by missionary brethren that 
the Taow-T ae, the . highest civil authority, had been in 
search of me. He had sent communications to all the 
foreign consuls complaining of a foreigner who had 
wandered up in the direction of Chin-keang, &c. The 
communication sent down about me from Tan-yang was 
defective in this, that it gave no hint to what nation I 
belonged. I was described of course by a Chinese name 
and surname, and this in itself could to a foreign consul 
give almost no clue to the party intended ; besides, I had 
been but a few days in Shanghae when I set out, and the 
English consul neither knew of my being in Shanghae, 
nor of my having gone on this journey; and to crown all, 
the escort, trusting I suppose to the papers they carried 
for my discovery, had failed to conduct me to Shanghae, 
and knew nothing as to where I lodged. There was no 
clue to the real person, and all the consuls answered 


that they knew of no such person as the one spoken of. 
Where was he? let the Taow-T ae point him out. After 
this answer had been given and the matter was over, the 
British consul learned from one of the missionaries who 
was the person intended, and I received through the same 
channel a verbal message to be wary about going to such 
places in these times of rebellion. Here the matter 
seemed to end, but it was not yet so. I had again gone 
into the country, and on my return was surprised to be 
told by Mr. Wylie of the London Mission Press that a 
few days before two men had been seeking me, and that 
they wished my aid in getting out of prison the son of one 
of them, who with another police-runner had been put in 
prison at K^wan-shan for failing to conduct me to 
Shanghae. The matter evidently stood thus : The Taow- 
T ae having failed in his efforts to discover who I was, 
had given orders for the arrest of the men whose duty it 
was to come with me to Shanghae, and to know where I 
could be found. With a view to their release, the father 
of one of them came to Shanghae, and through a native 
printer who was acquainted with Mr. Wylie, inquired of 
him whether he knew anything of the person alluded to. 
Yes, said Mr. Wylie. He stays here when he is in 
Shanghae, but at present he is in the country. On learn 
ing this from Mr. Wylie, we at once sent for the printer. 
He was absent from the city at the time, but when he 
returned he found me out in the boat in which I had then 
located myself, sometimes being at Shanghae, and some 
times at other places. He said that in order to the 
release of those in confinement, it was necessary that I 

440 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1855-58. 

should be found, and be conducted, he supposed, as I 
originally should have been, to the English consul s office. 
It seemed now as if I must be brought into trouble from 
which I had thought that I had most mercifully escaped. 
I felt however that there was no course open but the one 
suggested, and accordingly, in company with the father of 
the prisoner and the printer, his friend, I went directly to 
the office of the Taow-T ae. My companions went -in to 
make known the matter, and soon returned to say that 
they had been told that this was not the place for a 
foreigner to come to, *and that if I had anything to say 
I must go to the English consul. In reply to this, I 
informed them that I had no business at the consul s, as 
he now knew who I was, and where I was to be found, 
and that our coming here was no matter of mine, but 
concerned solely the men in confinement, in order to 
whose release it was supposed that I must be found and 
made over to the English consul. I was now on the spot 
and was ready to go with them, if it was desired, to the 
consul. They agreed to the justness of this view of the 
case, and said that the proper parties would go with me 
as soon as the papers necessary in the case had been got 
ready. While these were getting ready I had to wait for 
a long time in a side room, and here among many of 
the sub-officials I had a good opportunity of distributing 
Christian books, and speaking of the gospel message. 
At last, the delay was so long that I saw it would soon be 
too late to find the consul in his office, and I returned to 
my boat, having agreed that next morning they should call 
for me on the way. I had however reached my boat but 

yEt. 40-43.] THE PLAIN OF SHANGHAE. 441 

a short time, when the printer came with sorrow to tell 
me that he found my going to the consul s would be of 
no use ; that as usual, what was wanted was money, and 
that when this was forthcoming, the men would be 
released, but not sooner! 1 His friend, the father of one 
of the men, was now going home to try and make up the 
sum needed. He made no application to me for aid, and 
since then I have heard nothing more of the matter. 
Thus ended my attempt to reach the insurgent camp at 
Nanking. To me, in how much mercy, but, alas ! not with 
out suffering brought upon others on my account. It was 
a signal mercy in the case that the Sabbath had intervened, 
and that we had spent it not in journeying but in preach 
ing publicly at K wan-shan. Had it been otherwise, it 
might have been said with some appearance of truth that 
we had purposely eluded the mandarin escort, and so 
brought trouble on them which belonged of right to our 

For the next six months he continued to make his 
head-quarters at Shanghae, from which as a centre he 
made frequent and extensive excursions amongst the 
towns and villages around. Living for the most part in 
his boat, and following leisurely the course of the canals 
and rivers which here spread like a net-work over the 
whole face of the country, he scattered far and near the 
precious seed over a rich and fertile region, which, with 
the contiguous plain of Ningpo to the south, may be well 
described as the very garden of China. Stretching out 
in an unbroken expanse for twenty or thirty miles from 
1 I suppose the Taow- T*ae never heard of the matter. 

442 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1855-53. 

the sea-board to the hills, "one vast rice-field," dotted 
over with towns and villages, and with dark clumps of 
mulberry-trees with the white or brown sails of innumer 
able river craft everywhere in sight moving over the 
tranquil land it is rapturously described by travellers as 
the very picture of smiling plenty, teeming population, and 
peaceful industry. It is thus described by Mr. Fortune, 
as seen by him, in the summer of this same year, from the 
summit of a wooded hill near the city of Hoo-chow at 
its western margin: "It was a lovely evening the iSth 
of June the sun was just setting behind the high moun 
tain range to the westward, and although the day had 
been oppressively \varm, the air was now comparatively 
cool and enjoyable. I was in the midst of most charm 
ing scenery, and although only about two miles distant 
from a crowded and bustling city everything was perfectly 
quiet and still. Overhead the rooks were seen returning 
home for the day, and here and there on a solitary bush, 
or in a grove of trees, the songsters of the woods were 
singing their last and evening song of praise. Mulberry- 
trees, with their large rich green leaves, were observed in all 
directions, and the plantations extended all over the low 
country and up to the foot of the hills. The hills here 
were low and isolated, and appeared as if they had been 
thrown out as guards between the vast plain which ex 
tends eastward to the sea, and the mountains of the west. 
For the most part they were covered with natural forests 
and brushwood, and did not appear to have ever been 
under cultivation. In some parts their sides were steep 
almost perpendicular while in others their slope was 

JEt. 40-43.] THE GARDEN OF CHINA. 443 

gentle from their base to the summit. Here and there 
some rugged-looking granite rocks reared their heads 
above the trees, and were particularly striking. 

"Looking to the hills, there all was nature pure and 
unadorned, just as it had come from the hands of the 
Creator; but when the eye rested on the cultivated plain, 
on the rich mulberry plantations, on the clear and beauti 
ful canals studded with white sails, the contrast was 
equally striking, and told a tale of a teeming population, 
of wealth and industry." 

Had the traveller stood there two months after, one of 
the white sails he saw might have been that of the devoted 
missionary unweariedly pursuing his sacred calling, amid 
the crowds of other voyagers "running to and fro" along 
those shining pathways on other errands. But his eye 
rested not upon the opulent beauty of the land, but upon 
the homes of its people, over whom his heart yearned, as 
he saw them wholly given to the cares of the present life, 
or to vain idolatrous rites which blindly pointed to another. 
"Remember me," says he, "from this place, in the midst 
of a people of a strange tongue, and yet as if at home, to 
all who love the Lord Jesus and seek the coming of his 
kingdom and the gathering in of his elect ones in China. 
O let such pray for us ! Ye that make mention of the 
Lord keep not silence, and give Him no rest until He 
establish and make Jerusalem a praise in the whole earth." 

The following extracts will give a still more distinct 
idea of the nature of his labours at this time : 

"December 13^, 1855. I write these lines on board a river- 
boat, which has been my principal habitation during the past 

444 LIFE OF REV - WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1855-58. 

three months, and in which I returned to this place on 
Monday last, after an absence in the surrounding country of 
twenty-six days. I was accompanied by a native professing 
Christian, received into the visible church during the present 
year, and now employed to circulate the Scriptures in con 
nection with the Million Testament Scheme. We visited 
several market-towns, the names of which I need hardly 
trouble you with, remaining one or two days at places of 
smaller importance, and for a full week at one place, Fung- 
king (or Maple-tree Creek), where a foreigner had hardly 
been seen, and where the interest felt in our message was 
rather greater than usual. Two or three came to our boat to 
pray with us, and at on time I almost hoped that the anxiety 
of the people would have detained us for a longer time. We 
spent a few days also at the city of Tung-keang, about thirty 
miles from Shanghae, and frequently visited by missionaries, 
as well as by the foreign community generally ; but here we 
found but little encouragement, and the rabble were even 
inclined to use us a little unceremoniously. The last place we 
visited was a market-town, Min-hang, about halfway between 
Hun-keang and Shanghae, and here we were prepared to 
meet with less attention than usual, as the place is often 
trodden by foreign feet, and there are few among the mis 
sionaries, I suppose, who have not been there. However, in 
this case our fears were disappointed and our hopes much 
more than exceeded, for during the Saturday and Sabbath 
which we spent at this place, we had usually large and atten 
tive audiences, and on the Sabbath evening, when it was 
getting dark, we still continued to preach to an engaged 
audience, with whom at the close I felt at liberty to join in 
public prayer to the living and true God in the name of Jesus. 
It is not generally our custom thus to pray with the people, 
preaching as we do in the public street, c., and alas ! too 
frequently to a people not prepared to join in spirit with us." 

Now and then the peculiarity of the circumstances 
would impart a certain tinge of romance to the scene. 

JEt. 40-43.] SERMON BY TORCH-LIGHT. 445 

That strange sermon, for instance, under cloud of night, 
in a lone inland village, by the light of lanterns, suggests a 
picture singularly vivid and striking : 

"When it was dark we halted for the night at Chung-too- 
keaon (or Passage-for- all- Bridge), where there are but a few 
houses, and where we little thought of finding a congregation. 
However, we had hardly halted before we were arrested by 
the sound of a multitude of voices as of a crowd dispersing, 
and were informed that there had been a stage-play going on 
of an unusually immoral kind, and that the people had now 
dispersed, so that it was too late to reach them. However, 
we went ashore, and although the mass of these poor heathens 
were gone, we still found as many as we could address with 
effect, lingering about the gambling and eating house. The 
people had their lanterns and we had ours, and, amid the 
darkness thus broken, we addressed a multitude of precious 
souls, assisted graciously by our God to speak with more than 
usual earnestness and liberty of speech ; the people also, as 
if panic-struck by being overtaken by such a message in such 
circumstances, listened with a fixed and serious interest. I 
called on them to join with us in prayer to the true God, in the 
name of the Saviour of sinners, that he would deliver them 
from their sins, and save them from the punishment which 
sin was preparing for them. At the beginning of the address 
to God s throne there was some noise of voices, but towards 
the close all was breathless stillness. My companion and I 
were encouraged by thus meeting, as if by God s special 
guidance, with opportunities of declaring his truth and calling 
fellow-sinners to repentance. . , . 

" Twenty-five miles from Shanghae, January 26th, 1856. 
MY DEAR MOTHER, Taking advantage of a rainy day which 
confines me to my boat, I pen a few lines, in addition to a 
letter to Dundee containing a few particulars which I need 
not repeat. It is now forty-one days since I left Shanghae on 
this last occasion. An excellent young English missionary, 

446 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1855-58. 

Mr. Taylor, of the Chinese Evangelization Society, has been 
my companion during these weeks he in his boat, and I in 
mine, and we have experienced much mercy, and on some 
occasions considerable assistance in our work. ... I must 
once more tell the story I have had to tell already more than 
once, how four weeks ago, on the 2Qth of December, I put on 
the Chinese dress, which I am now wearing. Mr. Taylor had 
made this change a few months before, and I found that he 
was in consequence so much less incommoded in preaching, 
&c., by the crowd, that I concluded that it was my duty to fol 
low his example. We were at that time more than double the 
distance from Shanghae that we now are at, and would have 
been still at as great a distance, had we not met at one place 
with a band of lawless people, who demanded money and 
threatened to break our boats if their demands were refused. 
The boatmen were very much alarmed, and insisted on 
returning to some place nearer home. These people had 
previously broken in violently a part of Mr. Taylor s boat 
because their unreasonable demand for books was not com 
plied with. We have a large, very large field of labour in this 
region, though it might be difficult in the meantime for one to 
establish himself in any particular place. The people listen 
with attention, but we need the power from on high to con 
vince and convert. Is there any spirit of prayer on our 
behalf among God s people in Kilsyth? or is there any effort 
to seek this spirit? How great the need is, and how great the 
arguments and motives for prayer in this case ! The harvest 
is here indeed great, and the labourers are few and imperfectly 
fitted without much grace for such a work. And yet grace 
can make a few and feeble instruments the means of ac 
complishing great things things greater than we can even 

But a field already occupied by so many missionaries, 
and so " often trodden by foreign feet," could scarcely be 
an altogether congenial sphere of operations to one who 

JEt. 40-43.] REMOVAL TO SWATOW. 447 

felt himself especially called to the work of an evangelistic 
pioneer. Accordingly, within less than two months from 
the date of the lines just quoted, he was again on his way 
to another and distant part of the country. A Christian 
friend, Captain Bowers, of the merchant ship the Gedong, 
had spoken in high terms of Swatow, a rising commercial 
mart at the eastern extremity of the Canton province, and 
the chief port of the department of Tie-chew, as an 
advantageous centre for missionary operations; and being 
himself about to sail thither, offered him a free passage 
should he be disposed to go and reconnoitre the ground. 
An invitation coming to him in this unsought and appar 
ently providential way, and reaching him too at a time 
when no special attachment bound him to any other 
sphere, and when he was as it were waiting for a summons 
to some new service from the Master, came to him with all 
the force of a divine call; and he resolved, after brief but 
prayerful consideration, to close with it. It is probable 
also that he was on other grounds not indisposed to turn 
his face once more towards the Canton district, where 
seven years before he had begun his evangelistic labours 
in China, and which he had been compelled reluctantly 
to leave, without having made such full proof of his 
ministry as he had hoped and desired. He sailed from 
Shanghae early in March, and reached Swatow about the 
middle of that month. His next date is from that place, 
March 31, 1856: 

"Swatow, March ^ist, 1856. When I last wrote to you I 
was on the point of leaving Shanghae for this place in com 
pany with Mr. Taylor of the Chinese Evangelization Society. 

448 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1855-58. 

We left on the 6th of March, and, after a favourable passage 
of six days, arrived here on the I2th. We were very averse 
to the thought of being located even temporarily on the island 
(Double Island), on which some of our countrymen have, 
by compact with the local magistrates, taken up their head 
quarters, but were anxious, if possible, to find a location in 
the Chinese town of Swatow, which is on a promontory of the 
mainland, five English miles further up, at the mouth of the 
river Han. We were apprehensive lest we should not be 
permitted thus to locate ourselves ; but in the gracious and 
all-governing providence of our God and Saviour, we found 
favour and assistance from those whom we least expected to 
aid us, viz. the Canton merchants here, who are the agents or 
correspondents of the foreigners (our countrymen) down the 
river; and two days after our arrival we were, to our own 
surprise and joy, enabled to take possession of the lodging 
which we have since been occupying unmolested. Our 
lodging is not indeed large, being only a small upper flat of a 
house occupied below as a shop ; but it is sufficient for our 
present wants, and we are the more thankful for it as of vacant 
houses here there are almost none. Swatow is not a very 
large place, but it is growing at present very rapidly, and has 
all the appearance of being in a few years a place of great 
importance. During the first ten days after our arrival, the 
Geelong lay at anchor along with another ship off the town 
discharging cargo, and Captain Bowers continued to show us 
the same Christian kindness which he had manifested in 
bringing us here free of charge. On the two Sabbaths that 
occurred during these days, I preached on board his ship, 
and on week-day evenings also generally met for worship with 
him and his crew. For the last week they have been down 
at Double Island, and on Saturday (29th) I went down, and 
yesterday preached twice in his ship to such of our country 
men as chose to attend. The number of ships at anchor 
there was, as usual, nearly a dozen, and among their captains 
and crews were an unusual number of Scotchmen, who, along 


with others, came very readily not only to the forenoon 
service, but in nearly equal numbers to a second meeting in 
the evening. I felt it a great privilege to be allowed to 
preach the gospel in a place where it has been, as far as we 
know, seldom before proclaimed. Originally there seems to 
have been almost no population in Double Island, but since 
first the opium-ship captains, and afterwards some other 
foreign merchants, began to build houses and to occupy it, 
there has sprung up also a small Chinese town, consisting of 
those who live by business which the presence of the foreigners 
creates, or are occupied, alas ! I am forced to add, in pander 
ing to their unholy lusts. Yesterday-week (on the Lord s-day) 
a Malay sailor was murdered in a quarrel there ; and yester 
day a Chinese woman was also murdered, and another Malay 
sailor stabbed dangerously, if not fatally. The latter crime 
was the work, I understand, of a British sailor. Mr. Taylor 
and I are thankful indeed that we are permitted to live apart 
from a place where such tragedies are enacted, and where 
pollution and debauchery seem to stalk abroad without 
shame ; but at the same time I shall feel it at once a duty and 
privilege to take every opportunity of preaching there either 
on ship-board or on shore while we remain in the neighbour 
hood. Mr. Taylor and myself came here quite undecided 
whether we should be able to attempt more than simply to 
make a running visit for the purpose of Scripture and tract 
distribution to the open parts of the country ; but now that 
we see more fully the importance of this region as a vast and 
unoccupied scene for missionary labour, we are anxious, 
before going further, to prepare ourselves for the purpose of 
teaching the people orally by acquiring some knowledge of 
their dialect. This is a comparatively easy work in my case, 
the dialect spoken here being, as I formerly mentioned, very 
similar to that spoken at Amoy. We have as yet done very 
little in the way of active labour among this people, but would 
pray that our zeal may increase with our ability to improve 
the openings for usefulness that may be afforded us. We 

2 F 

450 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1855-58. 

have much need, as every one must see who considers our 
present position, of special grace to support and render us 
useful. For this grace may many be led to pray, that for the 
gift bestowed on us by the means of many persons, thanks 
may be afterwards given by many in our behalf, should it 
please the God of grace to preserve us in his truth and love, 
and make us a means of blessing to some of these dying 

While the aspect of the field in a moral and spiritual 
point of view was thus at first by no means encouraging, 
the representations given to him of its great importance 
had not been exaggerated. Situated on a narrow channel 
connecting two wide and spacious basins, the one running 
into the land and the other opening out to the sea, Swatow 
possesses all the advantages of a convenient and commodi 
ous commercial centre. Behind it is an extensive, opulent, 
and densely peopled district, for whose produce and enter 
prise it affords a natural outlet; while before it lies the 
direct and open pathway to all the commerce of the world. 
At about five miles distance, near the entrance of the outer 
harbour, is the subordinate port and foreign station of 
Double Island, affording a convenient anchorage for 
vessels approaching either from the north or from the 
south. As a commercial mart it is only of recent forma 
tion, but has been rapidly growing in wealth and import 
ance, and was two years after this advanced to a new 
position, by being placed by treaty amongst the number 
of the ports legally open to foreign residence and foreign 
traffic. It is, far more than even Hong-Kong or Canton, the 
true key to the whole district south of Amoy, from which 
it is distant along the coast-line about 150 miles. 


The prospect, however, of a prosperous entrance into 
this new and untried field did not at first on further trial 
become more promising. Three months after, Mr. Burns 
was as it were still endeavouring in vain to effect a landing 
on what seemed an iron-bound and inhospitable shore. 

"At Nan-yang, ten miles from Swatow, July i6th, 1856. 
During the last fortnight I have been moving from place to 
place, making known the gospel message and distributing 
tracts, &c., in company with two professing Christians, natives 
of this district, who came up from Hong- Kong fully a month 
ago, sent by Mr. Johnson, an American missionary, to co 
operate with us. Previously to their coming, I had been out 
on a missionary tour accompanied by a servant only. Mr. 
Taylor having occupied himself in learning the dialect of this 
district since our arrival at Swatow, left us a fortnight ago for 
Shanghae, intending, if the Lord will, to return in the course 
of a month or two, and bringing with him his medical 
apparatus, use his knowledge of medicine for the purpose of 
opening a door for more regular missionary operations among 
the people. Had we obtained a place suitable for indoor 
preaching at Swatow, I would not have ventured at this hot 
season to go about in the countiy. Difficulties, however, 
have been thrown in the way of our obtaining such a place, 
and so no other course has been left open but the one we are 
now following. We have met as yet with but little decided 
encouragement, but still something is done to spread an 
incipient knowledge of the truth, and in a field which has 
been so little cultivated we must not be discouraged if we 
meet not with immediate success." 

Still as ever his eyes were unto the Lord, the salvation 
of Israel, as his one source of strength and hope of 
victory. Great indeed and heavy was the stone that closed 
the sepulchre in which slept this heathen people; but he 

45- LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1855-58. 

went forth in the strength of One who by one touch of His 
hand could roll it away : 

" I need perhaps as much as ever I did since I came to 
China the presence and power of God s quickening Spirit, 
to maintain divine love and compassion for souls in my 
heart. Are there those who feel for us in this unbroken 
field of heathenism, and cry to God with spiritual agoniz- 
ings for the descent of the Spirit in his life-giving and 
converting power? The God of grace grant to us such 
helpers, for the glory of his own great name !" 

He was every day. painfully reminded of the urgent 
need of such help, and of the utter vanity of any other. 
Well might he, in contemplating the case of that blinded, 
debased, and almost savage people, have adopted the cry 
of Valignano, in looking across to that rock-bound coast, 
"O rock, rock, when wilt thou open?" 

Again, in another letter, about the same time, he 
writes : 

"The people in this district are, I think, if possible, more 
blind and hardened in idolatry and sin than in any place (if 
we except Canton) where I have formerly laboured. Although 
society presents here the usual features of Chinese civilization, 
it is coupled with a barbarity in certain circumstances which 
I have seen or heard of nowhere else in China. The fisher 
men, boatmen, and people working in the fields, pursue their 
work in summer in a state of savage nudity ; and within the 
last twenty years I am credibly informed, persons taken 
prisoners in the clan feuds have not only been cut to pieces, 
but their heart boiled and eaten by their enemies. Such is 
heathenism in this part of civilized China. 

" The ravages of opium we meet with here on every hand, 
and the deterioration of the morals of the people generally I 


cannot but ascribe, in great part, to the use of this ensnaring 
and destructive drug. When will measures be taken by those 
in power to lay an arrest on the opium traffic, which is in 
flicting such indescribable injury on this people, and which 
threatens in its progress by its direct, and still more by its 
indirect, effects poverty and anarchy, to sweep away a great 
part of this nation from the face of the earth? How blinded 
by the love of money are they who seek to enrich themselves 
by the gains of such a traffic ! Oh ! what need have we here 
of gospel labourers, and of the power of God accompanying 
their words ! Where are the volunteers for this service, and 
where are those who will hold up their hands in this fight ?" 

To the other difficulties of this arduous and trying ser 
vice, "perils of robbers" were, as on so many former 
occasions, added. In a postscript to one of the letters just 
quoted, he writes : "About two o clock A.M., or past mid 
night, July 1 8th, 1856. We have just been visited by rob 
bers, who have taken all but the clothes we wear, without 
however doing us any injury. This is a new call to pity, 
and to pray for this poor people, sunk so low in darkness 
and sin. One of our number, it is proposed, shall return 
to Swatow to get a small supply of money and books, 
while the other Christian and I go on to another town to 
await his return. We are preserved in much peace, and 
have just been joining in praise and prayer for this poor 

A momentary gleam of light seemed now to break upon 
them in the unexpected kindness and cordiality of the 
people in some of the villages which they visited; but 
the sky was soon again overcast, and a train of events 
followed which might well have issued in a sad and 

454 L1FE OF REV - WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1855-58. 

tragical conclusion. The history will be best told in his 
own words, in a letter bearing the unexpected date of 
"Canton, Oct. 10, 1856:" 

"Canton, October loth, 1856. MY DEAR SIR, When I 
last wrote you in the middle of July, I and my companions 
had just been robbed in our lodgings at a village about 
sixteen miles from Swatow. The following day one of my 
companions returned to Swatow with my letters, and to 
obtain a fresh supply of books and money, while my other 
Christian companion and I went forward, as we had intended, 
to the town of Tang-lejng, about six miles further on. We 
were without money, but God provided support for us in a 
way that was new to me. The people who took our books 
gladly contributed small sums of cash for our support, and the 
first day we thus collected enough to keep us for two days ; a 
countryman also, going the same road, volunteered to carry 
our bag of books for us; it was heavy for our shoulders, but 
easy for his, and he said he would want no money, but only 
a book. Thus the Lord helped us in going forward on his 
work, instead of turning back to Swatow for help. At Tang- 
leng we were very well received. In the neighbourhood 
there are two native ! Christians, converted in connection with 
the American Baptist Mission in Siam, and who, though 
they are left much to themselves, seem to follow the Lord in 
sincerity. With these we had much pleasure in meeting on 
the Lord s-day, and at other times. A heavy and continued 
fall of rain detained us at Tang-leng for some weeks, without 
our being able to do much abroad; and at last, on Monday, 
August 1 8th, we left this town, intending to return to Swatow. 
Our course by water leading us to within five or six miles of 
the Chaon-chotv-foo (chief city of the Chaon-chow depart 
ment), we agreed to pay it a visit; but fearing lest we should 
give offence to the authorities, we determined, instead of 
living on shore, to make the boat which conveyed us there 
our head-quarters while we remained. On Tuesday the 


we went on shore, and were particularly well received by the 
people. The demand for our books among persons able to read 
them, was unusually great. In the meantime, however, an 
alarming report of the presence of a foreigner outside the city 
having been carried to the authorities, we were in the evening 
suddenly arrested in our boat, and, with all our books, &c., 
taken prisoners into the city. The same night we were ex 
amined publicly by the district magistrate, and after the 
interval of a day we were examined anew by a deputy (I 
suppose) of Che-Foo, or chief magistrate of the department. 
On these occasions my companions and myself had valuable 
opportunities of making known something of the gospel, and 
of the character and objects of Christ s disciples in China; 
and as there was a great demand for our books, the work of 
many days seemed to be crowded into one or two. The 
magistrates examined us with great mildness and delibera 
tion, seeming anxious to obtain information rather than to 
find fault; and on the evening of the 2ist, the day of our 
second examination, a sub-official was deputed to inform us 
that the magistrates found we had been arrested on a false 
report, and that if the Canton merchants at Swatow, or any 
one of them, would stand security for us, we would be allowed 
to return to that place. The Canton merchants (through 
whom the trade in foreign vessels is carried on at Swatow), 
on being written to, came forward in the kindest manner with 
the document required; but in the meantime, it appears, 
the magistrates had reflected that, having once arrested a 
foreigner, confined and examined him, they could not, accord 
ing to law or with safety to themselves, give him up to any 
other than a foreign consul, and so I was told that I would be 
sent to Canton. On Saturday the 3oth I was put on board a 
river-boat, and carried about a mile above the city. Here we 
remained until Tuesday morning, when, being joined by a 
number of officials, high and low, in all occupying four river- 
boats, and going to Canton, some in connection with my 
case, and some on other business, v/e at last commenced our 

456 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1855-58. 

journey. I was provided with a servant, and with whatever 
food I wished, at the expense of the government; and had I 
been well, and had had with me a good supply of Christian 
books, I might have enjoyed the journey much. As the case 
was, my books were nearly all gone; and as to my health, 
a slight cold which I had caught before coming to the city 
had, through excitement, &c., taken the form of an intermit 
tent fever, with chills (ague), which, violent at first, continued 
more or less during all my journey. Our course lay first up 
the Chaon-chow river against a rapid stream, through Ken- 
ying-chow, and then, when the river ceased to be navigable, 
we crossed the country through a hill-pass a distance of 
about twenty miles to where another river, flowing down 
through Heong-chow to Canton, becomes navigable for 
boats of considerable size. The first part of the journey was 
tedious, and (including days on which we halted until our 
business at the various cities we passed was concluded), we 
were on the way in all thirty-one days. The news of our 
arrest, and of my being sent to Canton, had reached Hong- 
Kong, and through the great kindness of many friends who felt 
anxious for my safety, and could not explain why we should 
be so long on the way, inquiries were made for us at the office 
of the native authorities in Canton. It was perhaps owing to 
this in part, that on reaching Canton on the morning of Sep 
tember 3oth, instead of being taken to the mandarin s office, 
two men were sent by the authorities to conduct me straight 
from the boat to the office of the British consul. The consul 
has had a communication from the governor- general about the 
case. I did not see it, but the consul informed me that it was 
conceived in a mild strain, much more so than he had 
expected; and I am thus wonderfully preserved, and freed 
from the infliction of any punishment or penalty. I am sorry 
to add that there is reason to fear my two companions are 
still confined at Chaon-chow-foo, though the governor- 
general assures the consul they have been sent to their native 
districts (in the Chaon-chow department), to be liberated on 

-fit. 40-43-] HIS FELLOW-CAPTIVES. 457 

finding proper security. You will remember that these two 
men, though natives of that part of the country, have been 
for a number of years resident in Hong- Kong, and connected 
with the American Baptist Mission there. It was Mr. 
Johnson, the American missionary there, who sent them up 
in the beginning of June to act as colporteurs, and to co 
operate with us as far as found desirable. Looking at the 
lenient view of our case which the native authorities both at 
Chaon-chow and here seemed led to take, I was disposed, 
now that my health is graciously restored, to proceed very 
soon back to Swatow, in the hope of being able to prosecute 
the missionary work there unmolested; but yesterday, when 
in the act of making arrangements for going to Hong- Kong, 
I was met by a message from the British plenipotentiary, 
conveyed to me by the consul, to the effect that, after the 
representations of the imperial commissioner, he should deem 
it imprudent and improper that I should return to the district 
from which I have been sent. Met by such a message, from 
such a quarter, I think it will be my duty to delay making any 
movement of the kind I contemplated, at least until I hear 
from Mr. Taylor about his plans and prospects, and until the 
native brethren, as we hope they soon may, be released. Mr. 
Taylor went to Shanghae in the beginning of July, partly for 
a change during the hot months, and partly intending to 
bring down his medical apparatus to Swatow. Whether he 
has already come down, or whether, it may be, hearing at 
Shanghae of our arrest, he has delayed, I am as yet entirely 
ignorant. In the meantime, if shut up for a season at 
Canton, I am in the midst of kind missionary brethren, 
American and English; and my acquaintance with the Canton 
dialect, now revived, should save me, through the grace of 
God, from spending my time unprofitably. The field is the 
world, the seed is the Word of God. Most of those who 
came down with me from Chaon-chow were Canton men; 
they treated me with much respect and kindness, and with 
them, in the course of the month we spent together, I had 

458 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1855-58. 

many conversations on the subject of the gospel, which I 
trust may not prove altogether useless. Looking back on the 
whole scene through which I have passed, and contrasting 
the life and favour granted us with the misconstruction and 
suffering to which we might have been subjected, I cannot 
but adore the wonderful goodness and power of Him to whom 
the kingdom belongs, and who unceasingly cares even for the 
most unworthy of his servants. While the people of God 
have need to pray for us that we may be guided to act aright, 
and not to rush into danger without cause, they have surely 
cause to give praise for deliverance vouchsafed, and for 
opportunities, such as seldom occur, of making known some 
thing of the truth of the gospel to men in authority, and 
to many others. 

" I am glad to learn that at the time you wrote there was a 
prospect of Mr. Sandeman joining the missionary band in 
China. I trust he may be now on the way, and that he will 
come to be a blessing to many. With Christian regards to 
all friends, I am, ever yours, WM, C. BURNS." 

There fortunately exists also a Chinese account of these 
events, which is so curiously characteristic, that I am 
tempted here to reproduce it as a supplement to the mis 
sionary s own narrative. It is contained in the official 
statement addressed by Commissioner Yeh to the British 
consul Mr. Parkes in delivering up his prisoner to him, 
and gives us a vivid glimpse into the interior economy 
and life of that singular people. 


" Translation. 

"Yeh, High Imperial Commissioner, Governor-General of 
the Two Kwang Provinces, c., addresses this declaration to 
H. S. Parkes, Esq., Her Britannic Majesty s Consul at 


" I have before me an official report from Wang-Ching, 
Chief Magistrate of the district of Hae-yang, in the depart 
ment of Chaon-chow, which contains the following state 
ments : 

" It being the duty of your subordinate to act with Le-seuen- 
fang, the major commanding at this city (Chaon-chow), in 
the inspection of the defences of the place, we suddenly 
observed, whilst engaged in this service, three persons seated 
in a boat on the river whose appearance had something in it 
that was unusual. We found in their boat, and took pos 
session of, seven volumes of foreign books, and three sheet 
tracts ; but these were the only things they had with them. 
On examining the men themselves, we observed that they all 
of them had shaven heads, and wore their hair plaited in a 
queue, and were dressed in Chinese costume. The face of 
one of them, however, had rather a strange look ; his speech 
in respect to tone and mode of expression being not very 
similar to that of the Chinese. We, therefore, interrogated 
him carefully, whereupon he stated to us that his true name 
was Pin-wei-lin (William Burns); that he was an Englishman, 
aged 42 years, and, as a teacher of the religion of Jesus, had 
been for some time past engaged in exhorting his fellow-men 
to do good deeds. In 1847 he left his native land and tra 
velled to China, and took up his residence first at Victoria, 
where he lived two years, and afterwards in the foreign fac 
tories at Canton, where he remained for more than one. Sub 
sequently, he visited Shanghae, Amoy, and other places, and 
there spent several years ; wherever he went he made him 
self acquainted with the languages of the Chinese, and by this 
means he delivered his exhortations to the people, and 
explained to them the books of Jesus, but without receiving 
from any one the least remuneration. In 1854 he embarked 
in a steamer from Amoy, on a visit to his native home, and 
in December, 1855, joined himself to one of his countrymen, 
surnamed Tae, who was going to Shanghae to trade. I 
accompanied him thither/ said Burns, in his vessel; but 

460 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1855-58. 

from Shanghae Tae returned home again, whilst I remained 
there and engaged myself in the distribution of Christian 
books. In the sixth month of the present year (July), I left 
Shanghae, and took passage in a foreign sailing vessel to 
Shantow (Swatow), in the district of Chinghae. There I fell 
in on the 1 2th day of the 7th month (August 12) with Le-a- 
yuen and Chin-a-seun, the two Chinese who have now been 
seized with me. I called upon them to be my guides, and 
we proceeded in company to Yen-fan, and from thence came 
on to this city, where we had it in contemplation to distribute 
some of our books. Scarcely, however, had we arrived at the 
river s bank on the igih day of the 7th month (igth August), 
when to our surprise we found ourselves under surveillance, 
and deprived of our liberty. We entertained, however, no 
other views or intentions than those which we have stated, 
and declare that these statements are strictly true. 

" Such is the account given by the missionary, William 
Burns, who, together with his seven volumes of foreign books 
and his three sheet tracts, was given over into the charge of 
an officer, and brought in custody to this office. 

" Having examined the above report, I (the imperial com 
missioner) have to observe thereon that the inland river of 
the city of Chaon-chow is not one of the ports open to 
(foreign) commerce ; and it has never on that account been 
frequented by foreigners. I cannot but look upon it, there 
fore, as exceedingly improper that William Burns (admitting 
him to be an Englishman) should change his own dress, 
shave his head, and assuming the costume of the Chinese, 
penetrate into the interior in so irregular a manner. And 
although, when closely examined by the magistrate, he firmly 
maintained that religious teaching and the distribution of 
books formed his sole object and occupation, it may certainly 
be asked, why does William Burns leave Shanghae and come 
to Chaon-chow, just at a time when Kiang-nan and the other 
provinces are the scene of hostilities? Or, can it be that a 
person, dressed in the garb and speaking the language of 


China, is really an Englishman, or may he not be falsely 
assuming that character to further some mischievous ends ? 

" I have directed Heu, the assistant Nan-hae magistrate, 
to hand him over to the consul of the said nation, in order 
that he may ascertain the truth respecting him, and keep him 
under restraint; and I hereby, by means of this declaration, 
make known to him (the consul) the above particulars. 

" William Burns, seven volumes of foreign books, and three 
sheet tracts, accompany this declaration. 

"Heenfung, 6th year, tyh month, 2.d day. (September 30, 

Another characteristic incident related by his friend 
and fellow-labourer, Dr. De la Porte, may be here intro 
duced, as completing the history of these deeply interest 
ing events : 

"When he was arrested in August, 1856, and brought 
before the chief magistrate of the Chaon-chow department, 
the magistrate required him to go down on both knees to be 
examined, as is the practice in China. Mr. B. very firmly 
but respectfully refused, saying that he would go down on one 
knee, as he would do to his sovereign, Queen Victoria; but 
that he would only go down on both knees to the King of 
kings. The magistrate was struck by this answer, solemnly 
and respectfully uttered, and allowed the missionary to be 
examined on one knee." 

There were several circumstances connected with the 
time and position of affairs in which these events took 
place which rendered them peculiarly critical, and which 
led him ever after to regard their peaceful issue as a 
remarkable instance of the Lord s gracious leading and 
providential care. His arrest and confinement took place 
immediately on the eve of the hostilities which that year 

462 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1855-58. 

broke out between the British and Chinese powers, and 
just before the commencement of those sanguinary pro 
ceedings on the part of Commissioner Yeh, which sent a 
thrill of horror throughout the civilized world. Had he 
arrived at Canton while these events were in progress, it 
is not difficult to see what the swift and terrible issue 
would have been ! It will be remembered, too, that he 
had been, shortly before his arrival in this province, 
actually on his way to the head-quarters of the rebel army, 
on an unknown errand, to which the habitual jealousy of 
the Chinese authorities might easily have ascribed a 
sinister purpose. Alive to the danger of such miscon 
struction he had refrained at the time from giving even to 
his friends any account of that journey, which might after 
wards find its way into the Shanghae papers, and thus lead 
to possible complications and interruption of his work, and 
it remained in consequence up to this hour totally un 
known to the Chinese authorities. Had it been otherwise, 
and had any written trace of the journey and the inquiries 
connected with it existed on the records of any Chinese 
court, it would have been infallibly brought to light in 
connection with the inquiries consequent on the present 
arrest, and lent strong colour to the suspicion which his 
Chinese garb, coupled with his foreign look and accent, 
seemed to have awakened. "Had an account of the 
journey," he wrote afterwards (June 28th, 1858), "been 
published at the time in the Shanghae newspaper, as 
would probably have been the case had it not been in 
terdicted, it is quite possible that the Chinese authorities 
in this quarter might have got some hint of the circum- 


stance, when two years ago I was detained with two 
companions at the Foo city (Chaon-chow). It would in 
that case have seemed to them evident that I was a rebel 
in disguise, and the result can be but little doubtful. As 
the case stood, our countrymen in this neighbourhood 
knowing nothing of the said journey, none of the Chinese 
in their employ could even have it in their power to cast 
suspicion on us. I thought it also a special mercy that 
in neither of the examinations by the authorities at the 
Foo city was a single allusion made to the rebel party, 
nor any entangling questions put as to where I went and 
with what objects when journeying in the neighbourhood 
of Shanghae. Had such questions been put, then I 
might have seemed to be self-convicted of abetting the 
rebellion, and so have been summarily dealt with as an 
enemy of the government. The possibility of this was 
painted in painful colours to my mind when suffering from 
fever in my confinement, but from all these fears and 
dangers the Lord wonderfully delivered me. It would 
have been indeed a different thing to suffer as a supposed 
rebel, and to suffer as a Christian. This latter privilege 
was given to my native companions when beaten on the 
face and imprisoned for months; from the former I was 
most graciously and completely saved." 

Notwithstanding Dr. Bowling s friendly advice he was 
induced soon afterwards to return to Swatow, with the 
view especially of inquiring after his native brethren who 
were still in captivity at the Foo city. It was painful to 
him to find on his arrival there that they had been treated 
by the authorities with a cruel severity which they had 

464 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1855-58. 

not dared to use towards a British subject; but at the 
same time he rejoiced greatly that they had been enabled 
to witness a good confession in behalf of Christ in the 
presence of their heathen adversaries. Beaten forty 
blows on the cheek with an instrument resembling the 
sole of a shoe, they adhered unflinchingly to their testi 
mony to the truth and preciousness of the gospel, as the 
one only remedy for the ills of the soul, and returned to 
their prison only to pray and sing praises to God, and to 
labour daily for the salvation of their fellow-captives, one 
of whom, to their great joy, was in due time given them 
for their hire. At length, after four months imprisonment, 
they were, at Mr. Burns intercession, set at liberty. 

Meanwhile he had received at Swatow an unexpectedly 
cordial welcome from those to whom he had before 
preached, "enjoying favour in the sight of rich and poor, 
the rulers and the ruled." He was enabled at last to 
effect a permanent settlement in the place, and to resume 
his interrupted labours under more favourable auspices, 
and with brighter prospects of success. Having engaged 
the valuable co-operation of a medical man of the Wesleyan 
denomination, Dr. De la Porte, then practising amongst 
the foreign shipping at Double Island, he was enabled to 
combine the beneficent ministries of a medical mission 
with his usual evangelistic operations, and thus more 
rapidly win his way to the confidence and regard of the 
native community. Two days of each week were regu 
larly employed in connection with this work, when he 
acted as interpreter between the physician, as yet imper 
fectly acquainted with the language, and the patients, as 

JEt. 40-43.] WORK RESUMED. 465 

they came one by one to tell their case, while two native 
evangelists were engaged in another room, ministering the 
word of spiritual healing to the crowd of impotent folk 
who were waiting their time to be heard. About forty or 
fifty sufferers would thus be prescribed for in one day, 
while, at the same time, unnumbered seeds of saving 
truth were cast in faith upon the waters, to be found, it 
may be, after many days. 

On December 4th, 1856, he writes to one of the earliest 
and warmest friends of the mission, in words of hopeful 
courage, which show too how his heart was encouraged 
and cheered in his distant field of labour, by the loving 
remembrance and help of brethren and children in the 
faith at home : 

"Dec. ^th, 1856. MY DEAR MRS. BARBOUR, . . . We 
thus have some encouragement in our present circumstances, 
as compared with the past; and were the spirit of grace and 
supplication granted to some of God s people in Scotland to 
plead on behalf of us and this people, it would be a sure token 
that the Lord had special blessings in store for this hitherto 
so neglected and desolate a part of this inhabited earth. I 
am glad to hear of such spontaneous offerings to aid us, as 
that ;6 which you mention. I shall endeavour, when such 
are forwarded, to dispense them in the way that seems best 
for the advancing of the Lord s work. When I was in Scot 
land lately there were a number of small sums put into my 
hand, which I did not put into the public mission fund, and 
which I laid out in printing, at Shanghae and the neighbour^ 
hood, about 15,000 copies, in a sheet form, of one or two of 
Milne s Village Sermons (in Chinese). These I found very 
useful for distribution on certain occasions, when a number 
of larger tracts could not conveniently be carried. The first 
contributors to this small fund, or rather the founders of it, 

2 G 

466 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1855-58. 

were the children at M manse (Established), a little girl 

at the A Free Church manse, and another at a toll-bar 

to the north of that town. Some of the other sums were 
also from the north of Perthshire. I hope we have a few in 
that region, and in some other places, who pray for us and 
China s conversion to Christ. The harvest here is truly great, 
and how few the labourers are. May the Lord of the harvest 
send forth many more labourers, and especially from among 
China s own children." 

Meanwhile the preaching of the word, on week-days 
and on Sabbath-days, both to the foreign visitors and 
to the native community, went on steadily and in perfect 
peace, notwithstanding the rumours of war between the 
Chinese and British powers then raging in their imme 
diate neighbourhood. It seemed to him as if the pass 
ing events of that stirring drama were far better known, 
and excited a far livelier interest, amongst his friends 
at home than amongst those living within a hundred 
miles of the scene of action; and from first to last, the 
friendly relation in which he stood both to the authorities 
and to the people around him remained undisturbed. "A 
week or two ago," he writes, Jan. 3oth, 1857, "the prin 
cipal local authority in this place, when sick, invited Dr. 
De la Forte s medical assistance, and was very grateful for 
the aid thus given him ; and we are on such friendly terms 
with the authorities here, that it was in the small fort in 
the town, and from the military officer in charge of it, that 
we the other day got the news of the progress of the war, 
which had just come by steamer from Hong-Kong. He 
passed as we were speaking to the people near the fort, 
listened with some interest, and then invited us to take 


tea and converse with him, not only about the quarrel at 
Canton with the English, but about the gospel of Christ." 
Only by two incidents was he brought into closer and 
more personal contact with the political events then passing 
around him. The one was a proposal made to him in a 
very gratifying way by Lord Panmure, that he should 
undertake the office of chaplain to the British forces in 
that quarter, with the usual rank and salary of a major in 
the army. He respectfully but decidedly declined the 
appointment, chiefly on the ground that his connection 
with the invading army would be ever afterwards remem 
bered by the Chinese, and thus leave upon him, as it 
were, an indelible stamp, most prejudicial to the success 
of the higher ministry to which he had devoted his life. 
Lord Panmure entirely appreciated the high motives by 
which he had been actuated, and replied in terms of 
Christian courtesy, which must have been most gratifying 
to him. 

The other incident was the arrival of Lord Elgin at the 
port of Swatow, in the course of his important mission to 
the court of Peking, and is thus briefly alluded to by Mr. 
Burns : " Lord Elgin in his way to the north called in at 
Swatow, about a month ago. I was invited to breakfast 
with him, on board H.M. steamship Furious, and had a 
full opportunity of expressing to him my convictions and 
feelings on various points the coolie trade, opium, &c. 
He made particular inquiries in regard to the progress of 
the missionary work among this people, and also heard in 
detail the facts connected with my arrest, &c., in 1856." 
He ever afterwards retained the deepest respect for that 

468 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1855-58. 

distinguished and esteemed nobleman, who afterwards, 
when Governor-general of India, corresponded with him 
in the kindliest manner, in regard to a matter in which he 
had occasion to ask his friendly intervention. It was no 
doubt in great measure in consequence of this visit, and 
the observations and inquiries then made, that we owe 
the fact that Swatow was, by the treaties then under con 
sideration, added to the number of the free and open 
ports. The following letter to one of his sisters furnishes 
an additional reason for his prudent declinature of the 
chaplaincy, and gives at the same time one or two interest 
ing glimpses of his occupations and mode of life at this 
time : 

" Swatow, February 224 1858. MY DEAR SISTER, I 
have to thank you for more than one letter which I have 
failed until now to acknowledge directly. You know that the 
use of the tongue is more natural to me than the use of the 
pen, and this must be my excuse. I am but poorly able to 
satisfy your inquiries about the people who, during last year, 
were about us at various times as applicants for medical aid. 
They were generally from places distant at least two or three 
days journey, and of course unless they come again, we lose 
sight of them. In consequence of the uncertainty of Dr. 
Dela Forte s continuance here, and other causes, the medical 
work was a month or two ago interrupted; and though it has 
been resumed, and is now carried on, patients have not yet 
begun to flow upon us in a stream, as was the case six months 
ago, when many of the poor people, both men and women, 
flocked to Swatow for medicine with almost the same zeal as 
they would resort to some famed idol s shrine. During the 
past few weeks I have been almost constantly resident, not 
at the Chinese town of Swatow (my proper station), but at 
Dr. De la Forte s (Double Island). I came down at first 


for a change of air, but after getting the full benefit of 
this I am still for a little detained here by superintending 
some repairs and improvements in the Dr. s house. I need 
to attend to this rather than he, not only because I under 
stand the language, but because, in the view of his going 
to England, I consented to take his cottage, &c., from him, 
wishing to hold the situation in behalf of the mission 
cause generally as well as for present use. We have the 
workmen about us, and have some of them always with 
us at evening worship. Among other things, we are at 
present engaged, like the patriarchs, in digging a well, and 
as the position is rather elevated, we need to go deep in order 
to find springing water such as Isaac found, Genesis xxvi. 
19. You allude to the invitation given me to become chaplain 
to the Presbyterian soldiers in China. I have lately had a 
very kind acknowledgment from the War Office of my letter 
declining the appointment. As I had refused on grounds con 
nected with my occupation as a missionary, Lord Panmure 
will not press the appointment on me. Unless the Lord in 
his providence should shut me up to such a course of acting, 
I feel more and more that I could not safely leave for a 
moment the position I occupy; and had I accepted the 
appointment, I would have found on the one hand at least, 
up to the present time, that the troops among whom I was 
expected to be, had gone to India instead of coming here, 
and on the other hand would have been in the greatest 
danger, from knowing Chinese, of being diverted from my 
proper work, and sinking down into a kind of interpreter 

about all and sundry matters. Mr. L , whom you once 

wrote to me about after he had been in Glasgow, has lately 
got into a position somewhat of this kind. He is now 
at Canton assisting generally the provisional government 
established there by the English and French until matters 
are settled at Peking. He about a year ago disagreed some 
how with the Chinese Evangelization Society, and became 
government school (Chinese) inspector in Hong-Kong, and 

470 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1855-58. 

from the newspapers I have just seen that he is gone to 
Canton in the capacity I have mentioned. This is not the 
kind of work that would suit me, and I anticipated from 
the beginning, that had I become an army chaplain, it was 
work that I could have hardly avoided. I was surprised 
to see from the same paper which contained the notice of 

Mr. L , that my friend and former fellow-labourer here, 

Mr. J. H. Taylor, has just been married at Ningpo to a 
daughter of a late missionary, Mr. Samuel Dyer. I am 
almost surprised at the question you put to me as to whether 
I have any near that can assist me in keeping my wardrobe 
in order. Formerly I had the kind missionaries wives at 
Canton and Amoy, but now, where I have none such near, I 
happily am independent of such aid, wearing, as you seem to 
have forgot, the Chinese dress, which can be renewed or 
repaired everywhere. The only articles in which I still in 
part keep by the old attire are socks and flannel-shirts. The 
socks are hard to get repaired, but the native substitute 
answers very well. Indeed we need nothing here in addition 
to what we have but health of body a mercy still continued 
to me and our Lord s gracious presence and blessing in 
our souls and in our work. When there are ships here with 
English crews we have frequently public preaching on ship 
board. Yesterday we had not this privilege, but I enjoyed 
much the season when in the forenoon Dr. De la Porte and I 
joined in English worship. The Saviour s promise is even to 
two, and I trust we enjoyed his presence. We long, however, 
to see his work prospering, and his kingdom established 
around us. Of this we have not as yet much evidence ; but 
we are not discouraged. < The kingdom is the Lord s : he 
is the governor among the nations/ and he hath promised 
that all nations shall yet be blessed in the Messiah, and all 
nations call him blessed. Happy those who are made God s 
instruments in helping on this con summation first by through 
grace giving ourselves to the Lord, and then by prayer in 
the Spirit, or by active efforts, aiding to spread abroad the 

JEt. 40-43-] CARPENTRY LABOURS. 471 

savour of Christ s name. May such happiness be yours at 
home, and ours in this far land where our lot is at present 
cast ! Pray for us, and seek for us the prayers of God s 
people. Remember me specially to Mrs. Davidson (formerly 
Miss Mylne) and ask her prayers for me and this people. 
Fraternal regards to Mr. Stewart, and my prayers for your 
infant son. Your affectionate brother, WM. C. BURNS." 

The carpentry labours here referred to were only a 
recurrence to the occupations and acquired skill of former 
days, when as a boy he lifted up his axe upon the trees 
around the manse of Kilsyth. Now he found the change 
of scene and the bracing exercise of great advantage to 
him, "as tending powerfully to reinvigorate his physical 
powers, after being a good deal tired through a too con 
fined position at Swatow." It spoke well for the solidity 
and workman like character of his work, that, as his friends 
afterwards remarked, in a terrible hurricane which shortly 
after passed over the district, sweeping away the entire 
shipping and demolishing a great part of the houses both 
at Swatow and Double Island, his was the only house 
amongst those in its vicinity which stood the blast. One 
other incident of a startling and solemn kind marked the 
period of his residence at Swatow. A terrible visita 
tion of cholera passed, during several months, over the 
whole district of which it forms the centre, and created a 
wide-spread terror which brought out in a striking and 
affecting way the gross blindness and superstition of the 
people : 

"It is melancholy to see the means to which the people 
resort in order to free themselves from this dreadful visitation 
of God s hand. First, they had a procession of lanterns. 

472 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1855-58. 

each house furnishing one or more large lanterns, with bearers 
for them. This was continued for three successive nights. 
Next they had a public procession, continued during the day 
and a great part of the night, with drums and gongs making 
a discordant noise to drive away evil spirits from the streets; 
this was accompanied too with plays and exhibitions of all 
sorts of finery, children on horseback, &c. Our doors or 
windows were shut, so that I can give no description of what 
I did not wish to see. Again the people went out in proces 
sion to a neighbouring field, and drew water to drink, a cup 
ful of which was ordered as a recipe against the disease. 
These means having failed, for the last week or more all animal 
food, fish or flesh, has. been forbidden. On one day no one 
was to wash clothes; and, to my surprise, on Monday, I9th, 
when I went up from Double Island, the town appeared like 
a forest of shipping, high flag-staffs being erected in all direc 
tions, formed of long bamboos, fixed the one above the other, 
and some as high as a ship s mast; to these are attached 
small flags ; and at night small lanterns are suspended from 
them. In what way these things are expected to be bene 
ficial I cannot ascertain. The only answer to be got is that 
they are ordered by their idols ; and this brings out the most 
affecting feature of the whole. There are young lads who 
either really are possessed by evil spirits or feign to be so, and 
in a kind of raving madness give out what are looked upon 
as the oracular voice of the idol whom the people worship. 
There are two principal idols temples in Swatow ; and both 
of these idols have been in succession personated by these 
insane youths, by whom this blinded people are led! It 
is by such direction that all the foregoing remedies have 
been used to save them from cholera! Not one word is 
heard of the need of repentance, or of turning from any of the 
sins in which this people are lying, and in which they seem 
to go on with as unblushing boldness as before. How true 
that darkness covereth the earth and gross darkness the 
people ! What need that He should arise and shine who is 


the Light of the world ! In the midst of such a people how 
weak and helpless does all mere human instrumentality 
appear, and what need have God s people to pray for us that 
in these circumstances our faith may not fail, and that we 
may not sit down in despondency, but still persevere in doing 
the work of the Lord among this people !" 

One or two further extracts from his correspondence 
will complete the history of his labours here, which were 
marked by no other memorable event or important 
change, save only the gradual opening up of the field and 
the increasing interest and hopefulness of his work. His 
remarkable reception and hospitable treatment at the town 
of Tat-haw-poe is especially interesting, as an instance 
of the manner in which he often overcame difficulties by 
simply confronting them in the spirit of faith and prayer, 
and found favour in the sight of those from whom hostility 
and opposition only had been expected : 

March 31^, 1857. MY DEAR MOTHER, ... All 
things are going on as before in this place. We have outward 
peace, and an increasing attendance at our meetings, both 
ordinary and on the days when medical aid is given by Dr. 
De la Porte; but we need the outpouring of the Holy Spirit 
in Swatow, as in Kilsyth, to turn the souls of sinners from 
darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God. 
We need this, and this God has promised to prayer true 
prayer. Who among us has the spirit of prayer ! They are 
mighty who have this spirit, and weak who have it not. We 
need that the Lord would prevent us with his mercy, and 
quicken us when we are brought very low. Help us for the 
glory of thy name ! Deliver us and purge away our sins. 
Come, Lord Jesus, and take unto thee thy great power and 
reign! Is there any special prayer among you for China? 
Perhaps in seeking the awakening and conversion of these 

474 L1FE OF REV - WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1855-58. 

perishing millions a blessing may come down on your own 
borders as well as on us. 

" Brethren, pray for us, pray without ceasing ! I will 
conclude this note with Christian regards to all who love the 
Lord Jesus, especially among my own kindred. If any man 
love not the Lord Jesus Christ, how dreadful the judgment 
recorded against him ! Oh that all may have grace to flee 
that judgment and to love Him who is altogether lovely, who 
loved us and gave himself for us. Wishing grace and peace 
to my beloved parents, I am ever your affectionate son, 

" P.S. Finished near midnight, entering on April ist, 
1857, the beginning forty-third year." 

"Swatow, June $<t, 1857. ... Oh ! that they were as 
anxious for the salvation of the soul as for the healing of the 
body. Alas ! the gospel pool does not yet seem here to be 
visited by the angel to trouble the waters. All is sin and 
death around us. ; 

"Swatow, August $th, 1857. Whatever change we can 
mark is in the way of progress. The medical work brings an in 
creasing number of persons about us, to whom we seek to make 
known the truth, and gives us, in connection with our efforts 
to diffuse the truths of the gospel, a very favourable position 
in the eyes of the community. There is a district of country, 
Phoo-ning, at a distance varying from thirty to fifty English 
miles, from which we have had of late an unusual number of 
visitors, both men and women. They have taken lodgings 
near us for a succession of days, and not only have seemed 
to value the medical aid for which they came, but have very 
generally attended all our daily religious services, and have 
shown a more than common interest in our message. That 
district of country seems particularly afflicted with a species 
of leprosy, and some persons suffering from this and other 
diseases having received benefit, the poor people form parties 
and come out, at no inconsiderable trouble and expense to 
themselves. Those that come to us from this and other 


quarters we generally make the bearers of tracts and Scrip 
tures to their villages ; and sometimes when we neglect to 
supply them, they apply of their own accord. . . . 

" I am resuming my pen after being below at our usual 
evening worship. We had with us, from the opposite house 
where they are lodging, seven or eight sick persons who have 
come a distance of from thirty to forty miles for medical aid, 
and must wait until Friday, when Dr. De la Porte comes. 
These sick people come thus sometimes as many as thirty or 
forty at once ; and while they are here, as well as merely on 
the patient-seeing days, they have a good opportunity of 
hearing the glorious gospel. A week or two ago a large party 
of women thus came, having hired a boat for themselves, and 
many of them seemed a good deal interested in our message. 
One old matron of seventy-three I was specially interested 
with. Staying opposite she was often below stairs. She 
came generally to worship, and by her serious and intelligent 
look one might hope that she understood something of what 
was taught her. One evening, after she retired from worship, 
I heard her, across the street, mentioning the Saviour s name, 
and she appeared to be attempting to pray. 

"Have you any prayer-meeting now in which China is 
specially remembered? We need much prayer in our behalf, 
and in behalf of China at this time, when new treaties may 
be made with foreign powers, either very favourable to the 
entrance of the gospel or the opposite" 

"Swatow, June tyh, 1858. MY DEAR MOTHER, Dr. De 
la Porte is at last about to leave us. He was here seeing 
patients yesterday, as I suppose, for the last time, and to 
morrow, if the Lord will, I go down to Double Island to see 
him away. He goes down to Hong-Kong in the expectation 
of finding a vessel in which to sail for England. It was affect 
ing yesterday to join with him in prayer, probably for the last 
time, in a place where we have had so many meetings at the 
mercy-seat; and when he was gone, the thought that we 
should see him not again here caused a tender pang which 

476 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1855-58. 

found relief only in looking up to Him who hath said, I will 
never leave thee nor forsake thee. We have already parted 
here with two of God s servants, Mr. Taylor two years ago, 
and now Dr. De la Porte. It has been by the Lord s special 
favour to this poor place and people that they were sent for 
a time to labour with us here, and now that they are being 
removed we trust that the same Lord has still chosen instru 
ments in store whom he will send here, and support in doing 
his work among the poor heathen, and among countrymen 
more privileged but in many cases equally polluted and far 
more guilty. . . . 

" Perhaps you have wondered that I have not alluded to 
the new dignity conferred on my beloved father. 1 I felt, 
when I heard of it, in a way that hindered me from at once 
noticing it, for while I was unwilling to seem to make light 
of it, I felt on the other hand how poor and insignificant 
it was compared with that dignity to which, I trust, my 
dear parents are daily expecting to be promoted even the 
crown and the palm of the redeemed in glory in the pre 
sence of God and of the Lamb. To this glory let us hasten, 
in that glorified company may we meet, to give praises 
to Him that sitteth on the throne, and to the Lamb who 
bought us with his blood ! The face of Christ in glory, as 
one says, is the glorified church s Bible, from which we 
shall learn in one day more of divinity than now by faith we 
attain by many years of study. Come, Lord Jesus, come 
quickly ! Make us like thee, and in thy time take us to be 
with thee, to behold thy glory which the Father hath given 
thee. Unto Him that loved us and washed us from our sins 
in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto 
God and our Father, to Him be glory ! Continue to pray for 
me, dear parents, and seek an increase of prayer in behalf of 
this place and people, that the desert may be made to blossom, 
that the glory of Jehovah may be revealed, and all flesh see 
it together. Praying that my parents may be filled with the 

1 The degree of D.D., shortly before conferred on him. 


fulness of God, through the knowledge of the love of Christ 
which passeth knowledge, I am, dear parents, your affec 
tionate son, WM. C. BURNS." 

"Swatow, September i$th, 1858. Within the last month I 
am glad to be able to mention that we have obtained an addi 
tional standing-point for missionary labour, at the large town 
of Tat-haw-poe, distant about four or five miles from Double 
Island. I had often wished to visit this place, but delayed 
in consequence of being tied down, through the medical 
work, to Swatow, and being thus unable to follow up any 
favourable opening that might be given. Four weeks ago, 
after the assistants and I had specially sought the divine 
direction, v/e determined that two of them should go direct to 
Tat-haw-poe from Swatow, and that the following day, 
August 1 7th, one of them should join me at Double Island, and 
conduct me from there to Tat-haw-poe. He failed to come 
for me on the day appointed, and next morning came to say 
that, at Tat-haw-poe had just been posted up a Canton pro 
clamation, warning the people from having anything to do 
with the English, and that it was a question I must myself 
decide whether I would venture to go or not. There was 
some reason to fear that no one would give me lodging, but 
I thought it my duty to go, and wonderful to say, just as we 
were about to conclude addressing the people, a man of 
respectability invited us into his hong, gave us a kind 
welcome, asked where I was to lodge, and when he found 
that there was but poor accommodation in the shop where 
my assistants were staying, he pressed us to come to him, 
leading me from room to room, and desiring me to take which 
one I preferred. Finally he put me into his own room, and 
one of the assistants into the adjoining ; and there I remained 
for several days. Though passing the night in this gentle 
man s hong we continued to take our meals in the shop 
where the assistants had been lodging, until on Saturday 
morning, August 2ist, the shopman informed us that his land 
lord had, on the previous night, given him notice, that he 


must on no account admit foreigners into his shop, and that 
therefore I must cease to come. On this we went and made 
known the matter to our host, asking him whether he shared in 
the fears of this man. He made no account of the matter at 
all, and said that though, from the near approach of a Chinese 
term, he was a good deal occupied, and could not attend to 
us as he wished, if I would come again in a few days, he 
would give us an unoccupied part of his house to stay in as 
long as we liked. 

"In this he was not deceiving us ; for while I returned back 
to Double Island on that day, one of the assistants continued 
to remain in his house, and yesterday, September I4th, I 
returned from a second visit of six days, and have now a 
room waiting me whenever I am able to go." 

But the work at Swatow, at least for the present, was 
now drawing to a close. The departure of Dr. De la 
Porte had greatly abridged his power of effectively occu 
pying the field, and at the same time urgent invitations 
came to him from his brethren at Amoy, to return, at least 
for a season, to the scene of his former labours amongst 
the villages of Fokien. After much hesitation he con 
sented, on the understanding that the Rev. George Smith, 
a young missionary of great devotedness and high promise, 
who had recently joined their number, should meanwhile, 
more or less permanently, take his place at Swatow. He 
had as yet reaped but little fruit of his labours in this field ; 
he could riot count one single decided convert from 
amongst all the multitudes to whom he had here declared 
the Word of life; but he had thoroughly broken up the 
ground, and plenteously sowed the seeds of a harvest, to 
be gathered in by those that should come after him, and 
enter into his labours. 

-<Et. 40-43-] RETURN TO AMOY. 479 

He sailed for Amoy about the middle of October, 1858, 
and reached that place in safety a few days after. His 
next letter is, alike in its date and its subject-matter, 
deeply touching, and a brief extract from it will fitly close 
this chapter: 

"Amoy, November 2$t/i, 1858. I am sitting in the room 
formerly occupied by our dear and respected brother 1 and 
fellow-labourer who is now no more with us, but has, like his 
divine Master, left us an example that we should follow his 
steps, in order that we may overcome like him at last through 
the blood of the Lamb and the word of his testimony! On 
the occasion of his so sudden removal from us, I felt unable 
in any suitable manner to write to any of his kindred, 
although I took the pen in hand more than once to do so. 
On coming up here four weeks ago, I went to see the spot 
where his mortal remains are laid. It is as yet marked by no 
monumental stone, but is side by side with the graves of not 
a few members, old and young, of the missionary circle, and 
with many of them we trust he will rise in glory at the Lord s 
coming. What a lesson to us, and to all! When little more 
than a year ago I visited Amoy, I had much sweet inter 
course with him; and as the vessel that conveyed me back 
to Swatow left the harbour, he stood on the balcony above, 
and waved to me until we were out of sight. Now we may 
imagine him from a higher elevation, beckoning us to follow 
on in the Christian race, laying aside every weight, and 
running that we may reach the prize the crown of life, 
which we believe has been already given to him by his 
Saviour and Lord." 

1 The devoted and greatly beloved David Sandeman, who died 
of cholera, at Amoy, July 31, 1858, and whose memory has been 
embalmed in an interesting biography by the Rev. A. A. Eonar. 




WHILE Mr. Burns was thus laboriously preparing 
the way for future labourers in the comparatively 
hard and unkindly soil around Swatow, his missionary 
brethren had been reaping a rich and almost continuous 
harvest at the parent station of Amoy. His young col 
league, Mr. Douglas, had entered on his work at a most 
auspicious moment, and had abundantly shared in that 
blessing which for the last three years had so signally 
rested on that favoured field, and on all connected with 
it. The number of converts and of inquirers in connec 
tion with all the societies increased rapidly; the zeal, love, 
and hopeful faith, alike of missionaries and of native dis 
ciples, deepened; and the Word of the Lord sounded out 
more and more widely over the whole region round. The 
valleys of the hill country, on the mainland to the west, 
had become in particular one wide and busy harvest-field 
of souls. The sacred fire, kindled the year before at a 
single spot, spread gradually, chiefly through the spontane 
ous zeal of converts and native evangelists, to the towns 
and villages around, and one living church after another 
rose up as lights amid the darkness. Speedily the daughter 


societies of Bay-pay and Chioh-bey rivalled alike in numbers 
and in fervour the mother congregation at Pechuia, while 
lesser groups of Christian worshippers were scattered here 
and there over the valleys and hills. In the absence of 
European labourers, or of trained native evangelists, the 
members of the infant churches themselves became the 
willing and zealous messengers of the Cross, and the 
Word of the Lord spread as by its own divine inherent 
might from village to village, and from heart to heart. 
Sometimes even it would be found that a single soul 
having heard the divine message, perhaps only once at 
some central mission station, had carried some living seeds 
of truth home to some sequestered village among the 
hills, and there alone, amid heathen idolaters, by feeble 
prayers to the true God, and rude endeavours to keep the 
Christian Sabbath, nursed the sacred germ, until some 
Christian evangelist came to water and to foster it. The 
aspect of the scene, as it presented itself to the young 
missionary on his first survey of the field, was thus exceed 
ingly exhilarating. " A glorious work of God," said he 
(Jan. 3, 1856), "has been wrought in this place, and He 
is working still, and by his dealings we seem warranted to 
expect that all this is but the merest beginning of the 
abundant blessing that he is about to bestow on this place 
and neighbourhood. For several years after this port was 
opened the labours seemed almost in vain, and when 
about seven years ago the drops began to fall, they were 
very very few; but somewhat about two years ago, the con 
versions became more numerous, and now the number of 
living adult members is London Missionary Society, 

2 H 

482 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1858-63. 

here and at Ko-lang-soo, 150; American Mission here, 
100; at Chidh-bey, 22; and our station at Pechuia, 25. Of 
these the London Society has 39 female members, and 
the Americans about the same number. You can now 
judge by what I have said as to the past and the present ; 
while as to the future, our hopes rest, under the mercy and 
love of God, on various reasons, partly the zeal and 
prayerfulness stirred up at home, partly on the singularly 
steady progress and continued proportional increase of 
the converting work, which is also peculiarly free from any 
excesses of enthusiasm or superstition; and very much on 
the fact that the converts, almost all, are full of zeal to 
lead their relatives and friends to become partakers of the 
like precious faith, and to instruct in the Scriptures and 
the doctrine those who are younger in Christ; they 
seem, so far as I can see, to delight to tell those who are 
still without, of the grace and peace which they have 
found. . 

"There are altogether fifteen native Christians employed 
as colporteurs and evangelists by the various missions; 
these assist in conducting the services in the chapels, and 
quite as often conduct them themselves; they also go out 
into the streets, and the neighbouring villages and towns, 
distributing tracts and Testaments, preaching and con 
versing with the people. Though of course I am not yet 
able to assist them in this work, I often accompany them. 
There are also several young men under training for this 
work by the several missionaries, who occasionally go out 
to help; and there are also several persons engaged in 
ordinary business, who delight to take part from time to 

Mt. 43-48.] EXTENSION OF THE WORK. 483 

time in these evangelistic labours. Oh, that Christians at 
home would go and do likewise go everywhere, in streets, 
and lanes, and villages preaching the Word, and the Lord 
would certainly be with them, and his power be present 
to heal." 

When about a year after his arrival the missionary was 
able himself to preach in the Chinese language, the evan 
gelistic work went on still more vigorously. From the 
wise and judicious director, he became now the energetic 
leader of the company of preachers, traversing in every 
direction the whole region round Amoy, till there was 
scarcely one important centre of population on either side 
of the Chang-chow estuary in which the joyful sound had 
not been heard. Old stations flourished, and new fields 
opened up, which seemed scarcely less ripe for the harvest. 
Seldom did a month pass in which there were not in some 
of the churches inquirers to be instructed, and converts 
to be baptized; while the old members, for the most part, 
visibly grew in faith, in knowledge, and in Christian 
activity and zeal. A numerous "school of the prophets," 
too, for the training of native evangelists and teachers, 
flourished under the missionary s own care, at the central 
station at Amoy, and held out the prospect of still more 
active and extensive operations in the time to come. 

Tt was indeed a green spot, which attracted the eye 
even of the passing traveller, as a "field which the Lord 
had blessed." An interesting testimony of this kind, which 
came unsought from an unexpected quarter, I cannot help 
quoting. A writer in the Overland Chinese Mail, who 
signs himself " Ornithologicus," had set out with a fellow- 

484 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1858-63. 

sportsman from Amoy towards some point on the main 
land. Their boat was capsized by a squall, and they were 
taken up by a junk which was bearing towards the mouth 
of the Pechuia river. The boatmen would not return 
with them to Amoy; but showed them much kindness, 
taking off their own garments, and insisting upon them 
putting them on, to prevent their getting chilled. The 
rest must be told in the writer s own words : 

" Running with a fair breeze, in the course of an hour or so 
we reached Pechuia, and were led by the boatmen, amidst 
the cheers of the small boys, to the missionary chapel. Our 
guides conducted us through the Chinese chapel, up a ladder 
to a room above, where a teacher was instructing a class of 
boys. The learned man, when he first saw us in our dirty 
dress, and a mob crushing in at our heels, felt annoyed ; but 
as soon as he heard that we were peaceful inhabitants of 
Amoy, who had met with an accident while on a boat trip, 
his countenance immediately assumed a bland expression, 
and he invited us into his room, and made us recount to him 
as well as we could our accident, while he sent to have our 
clothes dried. Several converts came to have a look at us, 
and amongst them an old respectable-looking man, who was 
somewhat deaf; and when the rest explained to him what had 
occurred, he turned to us and said, in a serious tone, You 
ought indeed to be thankful to the Almighty for having spared 
you from a watery grave ! After we had chatted some time 
with our visitors, we were shown into a small private room, 
with a table, a couch, and a couple of bamboo chairs. This 
we were told was the missionary s private apartment whilst 
he taught amongst them. On the table was laid a dinner, 
half Chinese and half English, and we were left alone to 
dress and enjoy our meal. Our long subjection to moistening 
influences had given us extraordinary appetites, and we did 
our duty well to the good things set before us. Before it grew 


dark we expressed a desire to go for a walk, and were led 
through the village to a secluded path by the river s side. 
The streets have not much to recommend them, but the 
country was green and pretty, and quite a pleasant change 
from the barren hills of Amoy. 

" On our return to the missionary dwelling, we had a cup 
of tea, and then a gong was beaten, and some of the converts 
came in to ask us if we would attend evening worship. We of 
course implied a willing assent, and stepping into the hall, 
found a company of about twenty gathered round a table with 
books before them ; two seats were left vacant for us at the 
bottom of the table, which we took possession of. The 
teacher at the head of the table began the service by giving 
out a hymn, which was sung by the company under his pre- 
centorship. The Bible was then opened, and each one read 
a verse of the chapter in his turn ; an explication of the 
chapter followed, after which all fell on their knees while the 
good man prayed. My knowledge of the local dialect is not 
very great, but I knew enough to understand that he returned 
thanks for our deliverance from a watery death, and also that 
he prayed for the safe passage of their pastor, who had left 
them for a visit to the north. 1 We were exceedingly pleased 
with all we- witnessed, and came to the conclusion that the 
only answer we could in future return to the cavillers at the 
progress of Christianity in China would be that we only 
wished that half the Christian assemblies we have been 
present at at home could evince a portion of the sincere and 
true devotion in worship of the small body of converts in 
Pechuia. What the heart is, it is impossible for man to 
know, unless he judges from the external demeanour. 

"As soon as the service was over we retired to our small 
room, and being very anxious to return to Amoy, we inquired 
whether we could not hire a boat to take us back. The owner 
of a boat was summoned, and he agreed to start as soon as 
the tide turned, which would not be till midnight. 

1 The Rev. Mr. Douglas, then on a visit at Shanghae. 

486 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1858-63. 

"We talked with the people that came to see us, and smoked 
incessantly to pass the time away. Midnight seemed a long 
time approaching ; at last, to our intense relief, we were told 
that the boat was ready, and were lighted through the streets 
to the river side, many of our friends following to take leave 
of us as we embarked." 

But this bright picture had also its darker shadow. " It 
is impossible but that offences shall come." Tares will 
ever mingle with the wheat even in the richest and fairest 
fields of the Church, and the infant churches of Fokien 
were no exceptions to this universal rule. The mother 
congregation at Pechuia, in particular, had become latterly 
the subject of grave solicitude to the missionaries. Dis 
sensions had arisen about the building of a chapel; one 
or two cases of scandal had occurred amongst the mem 
bers; death and change had of late visibly thinned the 
ranks of the little society, while few new disciples were rising 
up to fill the vacant places. It seemed indeed as if the 
fresh spirit of life, under which at first they had grown ex 
ceedingly, at once in numbers and in fervour, had passed 
away, and that the work had become stationary, or even 
retrograde. It was in these circumstances that Mr. Burns 
had been urged by his brother missionary to return, at 
least for a season, to the scene of his former labours, and 
to bear his share of the increasing anxieties and responsi 
bility of their common work. 

On his arrival at Pechuia he found the evils of which he 
had heard less serious than he had feared, but still suffi 
ciently grave to call for prompt and vigorous corrective 
measures. On Feb. 22d, 1859, he writes from Amoy: 
" There are two persons there who have fallen away from 

.JEt. 43-48.] TROUBLES AT PECHUIA. 487 

their Christian profession; but neither of them had from 
the beginning, as far as I learn, any marked evidence of 
a work of grace. The only really melancholy case that I 
know of, is one who was chapel-keeper, and afterwards a 
preacher, but who, there is reason to fear, has again fallen 
under the power of opium-smoking." The general aspect 
of affairs, however, as it presented itself to him after so long 
an absence, was on the whole most cheering. "I wonder," 
says he, " more than ever I did at the reality and preci- 
ousness of the work of the divine Spirit at Pechuia and 
the neighbouring stations. May the time be near when 
new and like glorious manifestations of the Lord s saving 
power shall be witnessed in this and in all lands ! . . . Yes 
terday we had about forty of the converts in this neigh 
bourhood assembled at the communion at Pechuia; and 
to-day, in coming here, fully a dozen accompanied me, 
most of them returning home. It was a sweet contrast 
with the state of things five years ago, when we first 
visited Pechuia, and when in this whole neighbourhood 
there was probably not a single follower of the Lamb. 
These, where had they been? These from the land of 
Sinim ! Oh ! glorious day, when the fulness of the Gen 
tiles shall be converted unto Emmanuel; when all nations 
shall be blessed in Him, and all nations shall call him 
blessed! Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly. Take unto 
thee thy great power and reign." 

Two of the offending members were, after all gentler 
means of remedy had been tried in vain, cut off from 
communion, while two others were subjected to the faithful 
but loving discipline of the Church, with a view to their 

488 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1858-63. 

repentance and restoration. Remedial measures, too, of 
a more permanent kind were at the same time adopted. 
A regular body of office-bearers, according to the Presby 
terian model, was constituted at Pechuia, as had been 
already done at Amoy and Chioh-bey; the whole pro 
ceedings of the election being conducted in a most 
orderly manner, in an assembly of the native church itself. 
Another measure not less memorable originated with the 
native brethren themselves, and is in its whole circum 
stances and history deeply touching. " A fortnight ago," 
writes Mr. Burns, "at the instance of one of the elders at 
Chioh-bey (who is one of the Pechuia converts, and was 
one of the chief founders, as he is one of the pillars of 
the Chioh-bey church), the Pechuia, in concert with the 
Chioh-bey church, observed a season of solemn prayer 
and fasting, that they might seek the return of the Lord s 
favour to Pechuia. I was at Chioh-bey when this season 
was observed Tuesday, the i6th of August. There was 
a large attendance of church members, and when the elder 
I have alluded to, I-ju, began to pray, he was so affected 
that he could hardly proceed. The preacher at Chioh-bey, 
Tow-lo, who began his work as a preacher at Pechuia in 
1854, was also sobbing aloud. It was evident that the Lord 
was in the midst of us." 

It is not strange surely that such offences should be 
found in the infant churches in heathen lands, as are 
never wanting in the purest and holiest flocks in Christen 
dom. " It is well," said Dr. Hamilton, in his report of 
this year, " to bear in remembrance the many difficulties 
to which converts in such a country are subjected, from 


past habits and surrounding influences. Weak in faith 
and experience, they are as sheep in the midst of wolves. 
In our intercessions let us not forget those churches, 
which, like the lily amongst thorns, are planted in the 
heart of heathendom." They themselves had long since 
said, in that touching letter to their absent pastor and 
father in the faith : " You know that our faith is weak and 
in danger. . . . We have heard the gospel but a few 
months; our faith is not yet firm. . . . We are like sheep 
that have lost their shepherd, or an infant that has lost its 
milk." 1 

The evils which had been thus the cause of such bitter 
sorrow to all, were yet in the end overruled for good. 
The little church came forth from the ordeal purified, 
braced, and strengthened: with numbers somewhat re 
duced, but with a deeper and humbler faith, and with a 
tried and disciplined steadfastness. The shaking of the 
tree had only fastened the roots the more. The barren 
branches had been taken away, and the fruitful "purged," 
that they might bring forth more fruit. " During these 
months," says one of the missionaries, "a singular blessing 
has rested on efforts made to remove the evils which were 
pressing upon us. ... Fact after fact has come to light, 
manifesting those who were not approved, and most un 
expected light has been thrown on what, if undiscovered, 
would have continued to infest the Church, and hinder 
the work amongst us." 2 

Another event of the deepest interest occurred this 
year, which is so strikingly illustrative of the whole char- 

J rp. 422-423. - Letter from Mr. Grant, 8th Oct., 1859. 



acter of the mission, and of the infant churches to which 
it has given birth, that I shall relate the circumstances at 
length in the words of one of the missionaries. " Last 
month," says Mr. Douglas, "a step in advance was taken 
by the Amoy church, which seems to me most important, 
and the most cheering which has been taken since that 
church was organized. It was the setting apart of two 
native evangelists, entirely supported by the native church in 
Amoy, under the care of the American missionaries. 

" The novelty and cheering interest of this step does 
not lie in the use of "native evangelists. These have long 
been employed, and found quite indispensable in the in 
struction and extension of the Church. But the singular 
interest of what has just been begun is, that these two 
native evangelists are as completely independent of foreign 
money, as the ministers of Canada or Australia. Of 
course the church itself is still dependent for instruction 
on the foreign missionaries, and on agents paid by them; 
but in the case of these two new evangelists, a beginning 
has been made of the self-supporting principle. 

"It was after abundant prayer and careful counting of 
the cost, that this work was begun. The choice of the 
two brethren honoured by the Master to undertake this 
office was quite independent of the missionaries, the 
names being only submitted for approval or rejection 
after the choice, before the setting apart. On that day 
the native members of the other church at Amoy, that, 
namely, under the care of the London Missionary Society, 
were invited to be present. Almost all the missionaries 
of the several societies were there. And already both 


that church and the younger churches on the mainland 
are considering whether they be able to follow the 
example so well set to them. 

"The field chosen for these new labourers is the un- 
evangelized portion of the island of Amoy, which is just 
the whole island (about thirty miles in circumference), 
except the town itself. How wonderful and glorious the 
ways of God! While he is opening up our way to the 
towns and cities at a greater distance around, he is taking 
care that the populous villages of the immediate neigh 
bourhood be not neglected." 

Amid these interesting and fruitful pastoral cares, the 
more extended and aggressive work of the mission went 
on vigorously the missionaries "using the Gospel Boat 
as their home in going from place to place in evangelistic 
work, for which the rivers of China afford so great facility." 
Another attempt was made to effect a permanent lodg 
ment within the walls of the great city of Chang-chow, 1 
but was for the time defeated in consequence of a singular 
incident. "A week ago," writes Mr. Burns, "we were 
living near the district magistrate s office. He had gone 
out about midnight, on Sabbath the i3th, to inspect the 
streets, and just as he was passing our lodging, one of the 
assistants, when the other had gone to rest, suddenly, in 
the fulness of his heart, began aloud to sing a Christian 
hymn. The unusual sound attracted the mandarin; he 
listened, and hearing that a foreigner was there, he next 
day sent to ask us to leave the city." In another direc 
tion, however, some hopeful tokens had begun to appear 
1 See pp. 395, 396. 


in places to which Mr. Douglas eye had been long and 
anxiously turned. At Anhai, a town of about 30,000 or 
40,000 inhabitants, situated at the head of a long inlet, 
about thirty-five miles north-east from Amoy, an opening 
had been found for the truth, which soon led to the 
establishment of a regular mission station, and to the 
foundation of one of the most numerous and fruitful of 
the Chinese native churches. 

It was in the midst of these interesting and congenial 
labours that Mr. Burns received the following touching 
lines from his early friend, James Hamilton, which I am 
tempted to insert as a fragrant memorial both of the 
writer himself and of that gracious and benignant friend 
whose character he embalms : 

"48 Euston Square, London, N.W,, May loth, 1859. MY 
DEAR FRIEND, Two hours ago I received a notification of 
what will doubtless be communicated to you in fuller detail 
from home the entrance into his everlasting rest of your 
beloved father, on the morning of Sabbath last. It was only 
a few weeks after his retirement from his ministerial work; so 
that the heavenly Sabbath has followed sooner than he hoped. 
It has been a wonderfully serene and blameless life, and in 
the remarkable visitation of his people twenty years ago he 
has been a rarely happy minister. The announcement has 
sent my own thoughts back to Kilsyth and Strathblane, and 
to incidents that transpired full many years agone. To you 
in your far place of sojourn the tidings will be very affecting. 
It is touching to think that you will see his face no more; but 
oh ! how blessed is his own case, who now sees Jesus face to 
face, and who from a life of prayer has passed to one of praise. 

"Last January I saw him and your dear mother in Glasgow; 
they had come in to attend the meeting on behalf of China in 
Free St. Matthew s (Dr. S. Miller s). Your father seemed to 

JEt. 43-48.] HIS FATHER S DEATH. 493 

me very much the same as ever. He sat on a chair which 
was placed for him beside the pulpit, and the congregation 
evidently eyed him with much reverence and affection. 

" The fathers, where are they? I often feel it solemn 
now to know that we are getting into the fore-front; no gene 
ration any longer between ourselves and the great reckoning. 

"With love to all the brethren, I remain, affectionately 

In October, 1859, Mr. Burns was again on his way 
towards a new and distant sphere of labour. The special 
service for which he had come to Fokien, and for which 
the peculiar relation in which he stood to the inland 
churches there gave him a special advantage, had been 
satisfactorily accomplished, and now he longed to return 
to his old work of pioneering the way of other labourers 
in regions where the gospel had not yet found an en 
trance. The nearest and most natural centre of opera 
tions was Fuh-chow the capital city of the province to 
which Amoy belongs, and here accordingly he spent most 
of the next year quickly acquiring the new dialect, pre 
paring a hymn-book for the use of the infant church, and 
unweariedly sowing, as usual, the gospel-seed. Of these 
labours the following notices have been kindly furnished 
to me by esteemed brethren connected with other sections 
of the Christian Church. 

"When Mr. Burns," says the Rev. C. Hartwell, one of 
the oldest missionaries of the American Board at Fuh-chow, 
"first came to Fuh-chow in October, 1859, he divided 
his labours between preaching in English and studying 
and preaching in Chinese. He spent his Sabbaths at the 

494 LIFE OF REV - WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1858-63. 

Pagoda Anchorage/ 1 preaching on ship-board to seamen 
and others who came to his services. The week-days he 
spent at Fuh-chow, studying the spoken dialect, and for 
a short time preaching two evenings in a week in the 
Amoy dialect, to the tin-foil beaters and others from the 
Amoy region living here, who were induced by special 
invitation to attend his services in our church. 

"Of his labours at the Anchorage, I frequently heard 
him speak, as he made his home with me for the first two 
months of his stay here. A few Scotch ship-masters also 
called on him at my house, but I remember no facts of 
especial interest connected with his labours among the 

"As his congregations of hearers in the Amoy dialect 
soon became small, he ceased from his efforts in that 
direction, and devoted himself exclusively to learning the 
Fuh-chow language, and labouring for the Fuh-chow 
people. Having an accurate knowledge of the written 
language, 2 and a great facility in acquiring the spoken 
dialects, he was soon able to do something in connection 
with the native helpers employed by the Mission of the 
American Board, and the American Methodist Mission. 

"Besides attending the services of other missionaries, 

1 "Pagoda Anchorage" is the place where large ships lie, about 
twelve miles below the city; it is so called from a pagoda on 
"Pagoda Island." 

"The written language" may perhaps not give a clear idea; 
what is meant is the literary style, in which books are composed, and 
which is equally current through the whole empire; of course it is 
quite different from the colloquial of any place, and only well-edu 
cated persons can understand it. 

JEt. 43-48.] LABOURS AT FUH-CHOW. 495 

he himself held others in our churches, in which at first 
the native helpers did the preaching, he simply directing 
the exercises, and occasionally suggesting points to them 
upon which he wished them to speak. He was quite 
successful in this mode of effort, and the helpers as well 
as others were benefited by the meetings. 

"As his ability to use the local dialect increased, he 
gradually did more preaching himself at his services. His 
labours at first were mostly at Nan-tai, 1 where churches 
had been built and good accommodations for preaching 
secured. Afterwards, as the missionaries within the city, 
from want of chapels, at that time were forced to labour 
a good deal in the streets, he began to accompany them 
in their labours in street-preaching, and also engaged in 
such efforts himself in connection with native assistants. 

"He also assisted us by visiting some of our out-stations 
in the country, and labouring in these places. One of 
our present out-stations was commenced by him. We 
had opened a chapel some miles back of the place in a 
smaller village, but had been unable to secure one in this 
large village until his effort was successful. He laboured at 
this place for some time, and several persons manifested 
some interest in the truth, but none of them have yet 
given evidence of piety. When he left Fuh-chow the last 
time, he gave funds to employ an extra helper for this 

1 Nan-tai, the suburb of Fuh-chow, on the river, where all the 
foreign hongs and mercantile and consular residences stand. The 
mission houses, and some of the mission chapels of the American 
Methodist Mission, are also there. The city proper (the walled part) 
lies about three miles north of the river, the suburb stretching the 
whole way, though most dense on the river side. 

496 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1858-63. 

village for some time, and the out-station has been fully 
manned by us ever since; but, for unknown reasons, it 
has hitherto proved our least successful field of labour. 

"Not desiring to open a new mission at Fuh-chow, 
during his stay here, Mr. Burns sought to aid each of the 
three missions already established, as opportunity offered 
and occasion seemed to require. He did not confine his 
assistance to any one of them. He sought for openings 
where he could be useful in promoting the work generally, 
and in this he was very successful. His catholicity of 
feeling made him e\*er ready to aid at any weak point. 

"The particulars in which, as it seems to me, he most 
aided our mission and in fact the others also were his 
excellent influence upon our native assistants, and in 
successfully introducing the use of colloquial hymns 
among us in our worship. 

"Our helpers soon learned to feel a great regard for 
Mr. Burns, and their piety was quickened and deepened 
apparently through his influence. His power over them 
arose from his own deep piety ; his accurate knowledge of 
the Chinese language; the great fund of Christian know 
ledge at his command; and the singleness of purpose 
which he ever manifested. We felt it to be a privilege to 
have our native preachers under his influence and instruc 

"Previous to his coming among us all our hymns used 
in worship had been in the written language, as had been 
the case elsewhere generally in China. His attempt, 
though not the only one, was the first which was success 
ful in introducing the use of colloquial hymns for this 

JEt. 43-48.) LABOURS AT FUH-CHOW. 497 

purpose. With the aid of native preachers he prepared 
some of the hymns used at Amoy and Swatow, in the 
spoken dialect of Fuh-chow. These he first printed in 
sheet form, and used them in street-preaching and chapel- 
preaching, till he was convinced that they were in a good 
colloquial style, and then he published them as amended 
in a book form, and they soon came into general use 
among us. He showed his usual enthusiasm in introduc 
ing his hymns, and the force of his character had much 
weight in overcoming the prejudices of our better educated 
Christians to the general use of colloquial hymns. Our 
hymn-book has been much enlarged, but the hymns pre 
pared by Mr. Burns are still general favourites. His 
influence for good here, doubtless, will be perpetuated for 
a long time to come through the use of these hymns. 

" I think of nothing else that would be of especial 
interest to mention. He was a good man, did good 
wherever he was, and has gone to his reward. The savour 
of his name is still fragrant at Fuh-chow." 

" He came to Fuh-chow," writes the Rev. Dr. M Lay, 
of the American Methodist Episcopal Church, "shortly 
after we had gathered in the first-fruits of the harvest in 
this field, and the effect of his example and his teachings 
on the native Christians was most salutary. He was 
eminently a man of prayer, and this feature of his character, 
as also his love for God s Word, operated beneficially on 
the native church. His thorough- consecration to the 
work of an evangelist, and his steady perseverance in it, 
produced a powerful impression upon all with whom he 
came in contact. He was also very useful in training the 

2 I 

490 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1858-63. 

native churches in the use of holy song; and the hymns 
prepared under his direction are still found in the hymn- 
books used by the native churches of this city and its 
vicinity. There were not many converts added to the 
societies under the care of our mission during the time 
Mr. Burns was in Fuh-chow. // would appear that he 
aimed chiefly at the edification of the native church, and in 
this department he did a good work. The memory of 
Mr. Burns is very tenderly cherished by those who became 
acquainted with him during his residence in Fuh chow, 
and among all the native Christians his name is as oint 
ment poured forth." 

In September of the next year (1860) he returned to 
the neighbourhood of Amoy, in consequence of some 
trying circumstances to which we shall have presently to 
refer in greater detail ; and then, after only a brief stay, 
passed on to his old home at Swatow, where he found to 
his joy that the wilderness which he had left so short a 
time before had begun in a remarkable manner to blossom, 
under the able and devoted labours of his successor, Mr. 
Smith. The day after his arrival he preached to the 
natives, and the change for the better that had come over 
the people in their desire to hear the gospel since his first 
visit, five years previously, affected him almost to tears on 
the occasion. Here also he compiled a hymn-book in the 
colloquial dialect, which proved a precious boon to the 
young converts. 1 

He returned to Fuh-chow in the course of the next 
year, and continued his labours there for some months 
^Narrative, &<:., p. 60. 

^Et. 43-48.] PERSECUTION. 499 

longer, But, meanwhile, events had occurred in the 
neighbourhood of Amoy which required his presence 
there for a more lengthened period, and which ultimately 
led to his removal to the capital city of Peking. 

Allusion has already been made more than once to the 
fiery trial to which these infant churches have been 
almost continually exposed through the bitter opposition 
and hostility of their heathen fellow-countrymen. The 
political jealousy of the ruling class, and the religious 
rancour of the people, united in common antipathy to 
the professors of a strange and alien faith. The mandarins 
suspected the foreign creed; the multitude hated the 
singular and exclusive worship. To the philosophic Con 
fucian they were obnoxious as fanatics; to the supersti 
tious devotee as enemies of the gods and despisers of the 
ancestral rites. Hence a general and constant sentiment 
of mingled suspicion, dislike, and fear, which was ever in 
danger, on the least provocation, of breaking out into 
open acts of hostility and lawless violence. They were 
seldom, indeed, called to witness for their divine Master 
unto blood; never, perhaps, except when some terrible 
misconception might involve the Christian evangelist in 
supposed complicity with the schemes of traitors and 
rebels ; but short of this there was scarcely any extreme of 
hardship and suffering to which they might not be sub 
jected. Their houses were spoiled. Their property was 
destroyed. Their rice -fields were laid waste. Their 
cattle were driven away. Their pine-trees were cut down. 
They were refused the use of the public wells. Their 
supply of labourers was cut oif by hostile combination in 

500 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1858-63. 

time of harvest. Their places of worship were rudely 
assailed, and their sacred assemblies interrupted, without 
hope of protection or redress from any native authority. 
One or two instances of this petty but vexatious persecu 
tion may be given from the letters of the missionaries. 
Thus one of the members of the Bay-pay church, of the 
name of Wat, had been called upon to pay the accus 
tomed tribute in support of the idolatrous ceremonies at 
one of the great feasts. He refused. Forthwith he was 
denied water from the public well, and his son was beaten 
in attempting to fetch it. Then they cut down a large 
number of his pine-trees, which formed a considerable 
portion of his property; and as he appealed for redress in 
vain, they proceeded next to cut down his fruit-trees. 
Other members of the same church had their rice-fields 
and other property plundered, and at one time three of 
the female candidates for baptism were severely beaten 
by their relatives. At Yam-tsai, in the Swatow district, 
one poor widow had her house plundered on the Lord s- 
day when she was at church ; another member had his 
field of sugar-cane destroyed; a third had his fowls stolen; 
and all were constantly exposed to the scoffs and re 
proaches of their fellow-villagers, and the unbelieving 
members of their own families. Sometimes the malicious 
designs of the adversary were defeated in singular ways, 
or signally overruled for good. One day the police 
entered the premises of the old cloth merchant at Pechuia, 
intending to plunder or perhaps to seize him. Being 
rather deaf, he did not hear their demand, but he said, 
"O yes; I know what you have come for," and taking 

JEt. 43-48.] BROTHERLY LOVE. $01 

down some of his goods, and pointing to the rest, he 
said, "Take them, take them all, and I ll go with you, 
too; but I am old and rather deaf; take my boys, too, 
and my little girl there. We are all Christians, we are not 
afraid; we will go with you." The men, astonished at 
this novel reception, left the premises without injuring any 
of the inmates, or touching an article of their property. 
While one was thus preserved by his own simple and 
unworldly faith, another was succoured by the brotherly 
love of his fellow-disciples. An old farmer, who resided 
about five miles from Khi-boey, a village in the same 
district, having become a Christian, his heathen neigh 
bours evinced their bitter dislike by refusing at harvest 
time to give him the least assistance in reaping his rice- 
fields. On hearing of the old man s trouble, the brethren 
at Khi-boey at once resolved to go to his help; a band of 
them started one evening for the farm, and commencing 
operations early next morning, they worked so heartily 
that the fields were all reaped in one day, to the surprise 
of the neighbours, and to the comfort and relief of their 
brother in distress. Such trials as these had fallen of late 
with peculiar severity on some of the village churches in 
the Pechuia district, and called for some vigorous interven 
tion in their behalf on the part of their spiritual overseers. 
The case of Bay-pay has been already incidentally alluded 
to. More recently at Khi-boey, a village about twenty 
miles to the south-west of Pechuia, where an interesting 
and prosperous church had been recently established, the 
disciples had been called to pass, while yet, as it were, in 
their very infancy, through a great fight of affliction. " On 

502 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1858-63. 

hearing of the disturbances, Mr. Swanson at once repaired 
to Khi-boey, and was gratified to find that though the 
persecution still raged, the converts were keeping firm and 
hopeful, and that fourteen of them were in a state of pre 
paredness for baptism. No house could be had for divine 
service, and they had to gather under the shade of a 
magnificent lung-yen tree. The persecution ceased for a 
time, but the missionaries were soon again summoned to 
interpose in their behalf. Chioh, in whose house the 
Christians had been in the habit of assembling, was driven 
from his home, and on his attempting to take refuge in 
the house of another Christian, the roof was broken in by 
a mob, and Chioh prevented from entering. His widowed 
sister was then attacked, and her son threatened with 
death unless they complied with their demand for money ; 
a sword was brandished over the lad s head, while they 
required that he should cease to worship God. This he 
resolutely refused, declaring himself ready to die rather 
than renounce his faith. Chioh and another went down 
to Amoy for advice, and Mr. Burns at once returned with 
them to see what could be done. While he was attempt 
ing to pacify the enraged villagers, one of the converts 
was set upon by a number of men armed with bludgeons 
and pikes, and severely beaten, and might have been 
killed, but for his timely intervention." 

No one assuredly was ever in a better position to interfere 
in such a case than one who for so many years, and amid 
all his wanderings amongst this heathen people, had so 
simply and wholly cast himself on the care of his divine 
Master, and had never in any single instance invoked the 


succour of the secular arm in his own defence. The 
rights which he had never sought to enforce in his own 
behalf he could the more boldly and freely, and with the 
greater effect, plead in behalf of others. Ever ready him 
self to suffer, he was prompt to hold his protecting shield 
over those who were less able to suffer than he. He spoke 
accordingly in their behalf with a resolute force and de 
cision which, in dealing with secular matters, was not 
usual with him. A formal representation was made to 
the Chinese authorities, through the British consul, who 
himself took up the case very cordially, and threatened 
that, if immediate justice were not done, he would report 
the case to Peking. This produced the desired result. It 
was promised that the stolen property should be restored, 
and money given in compensation for property destroyed. 
But the Christians, before consenting to this offer, pre 
ferred consulting Mr. Burns at Amoy, who at once came 
again to their aid, and obtained from the magistrates the 
following terms : 

(i.) Restoration, so far as possible, of the very articles 
stolen ; 

(2.) A bond from the enemies to guarantee their non 
interference with the Christians; and 

(3.) A proclamation to be issued, exhorting the people 
not to interfere with the Christians. 

"Most happily all this was agreed to, and the enemies 
seeing the turn matters were taking, and fearing the vio 
lence of their own authorities, prayed for the interposition 
of the missionaries in their behalf. Mr. Burns gladly used 
his influence accordingly, and thus all ended well. The 


stolen property was restored in presence of the mandarins, 
Mr. Burns, and an immense concourse of people. The 
poor Christians carried their pigs, and led back their 
oxen to the homes from which they had so lately been 
driven, rejoicing, and yet we hope humble. On the same 
day the enemies entered into a bond not to interfere with 
those who were, or might become Christians, and not to 
annoy them in any way. In a few days after, the mandarins 
issued a proclamation, intimating that the case was now 
settled, and strictly forbidding all persons from interfering 
with any one who may enter the holy religion of Jesus. 
Not the least remarkable feature in the termination of 
these disturbances was, that the enemies looked upon the 
missionaries as their best friends, for having shielded them 
from the severity of the mandarins." 1 

Thus for once, and in behalf of Christ s " little ones," 
had "the Man of the Book" sustained the character of the 
vigorous, sagacious, and successful diplomatist. The storm 
for the present passed away. Then for a season had the 
churches rest throughout the towns and villages of Fokien. 
But the permanent relations of the native Christians 
towards their heathen countrymen were still in a very un 
certain and precarious state, and it was thought important 
that Mr. Burns should proceed to Peking, with the view of 
obtaining a personal interview with Sir Frederick Bruce, 
and thus, if possible, effecting a more secure and satisfac 
tory settlement. He left Amoy accordingly, and arrived 
at the capital, in October, 1863, tnus entering on the last 
period of his missionary career. 

1 Narrative , &>c., p. 40, 41. 



IN tracing the last footsteps of my lamented brother at 
Peking and Nieu-chwang, I have been happily fur 
nished with such ample materials from the hands of loving 
brethren of different Christian communions, that it will 
scarcely be necessary for me to do aught more than simply 
to quote their tender and graphic words. Some of these 
communications have come so spontaneously, and from 
quarters to me so unexpected, that it has seemed but as 
the breathing fragrance of precious ointment, which must 
flow forth, and which cannot be hid, when the alabaster 
box is broken. To this part of our narrative the following 
vivid and interesting notices, from the pen of S. Wells 
Williams, LL.D., Secretary of the United States Legation 
at Peking, will form a peculiarly appropriate introduc 
tion all the more so that they are in part retrospective, 
touching the missionary s career at various points, where 
the paths of the two friends crossed one another during 
the course of twenty years : 

" When I recall," says this distinguished scholar and mis 
sionary, " the voice and form of Mr. Burns, they revive my 
earliest notions of one of the old Hebrew prophets, of a man 

506 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1863 63. 

whose high vocation had somewhat separated him from 
common communion with those around him ; this idea im 
pressed itself so much upon my mind when I first met him in 
Hong- Kong, in Sept. 1848, that it always invested his char 
acter and name, and does so even more now that he has gone. 
Our intercourse was of the most cordial nature; but being a 
printer, and having no work with him, I was not so much 
thrown into his company as he was with Dr. Hobson at 
Canton, Mr. Doty at Amoy, and others who had chapels where 
he could preach. I have therefore not so many recollections 
of Mr. Burns as might be inferred from an acquaintance of 
twenty years, and fyave not preserved a single line of his 

"His determination and singleness of purpose in the 
mission work were illustrated in his account of the way he 
began the study of the language on his voyage to China. The 
only book which he could find in London to aid him in this 
study was my English and Chinese Vocabulary,; with this he 
procured a volume of Matthew s Gospel, and perhaps a tract 
or two. He then examined the first verses of the 2d chapter, 
learned the figures so as to distinguish the verses, and taking 
the first characters, hunted through the Vocabulary till he 
found them as the Chinese equivalents of the English words, 
reconstructing the sentences, as he found one word after the 
other, until he had found out the sound, meaning, and radical 
of each character. Then he wrote them over and over, until 
he had acquired them thoroughly. This tedious way of 
learning the characters was continued until he arrived in 
Hong-Kong; but no one, unless acquainted with the Chinese 
language, can fully appreciate the tedium of acquiring its 
characters otherwise than by beginning with the radicals. I 
think he went over nearly the whole Gospel in this way before 
the end of the voyage, and then sat down to the study with a 
preparation and zest that few have brought to the task. It 
was a pleasant gratification to me to learn that the time spent 
on that small vocabulary had helped Mr. Burns in his 


labours, for I remembered how helpless I felt on my voyage 
out fifteen years before, when I had no possible means of 
learning a single character, and reached the country quite 
ignorant of the people and their language. 

" I went to Canton, and saw no more of Mr. Burns until he 
came to that city to live in 1850. Before that date I heard 
of his having been robbed of all his baggage while living on 
the mainland, opposite Hong- Kong, whither he had gone to 
see what could be done in effecting a settlement among the 
people. The thieves broke up his quarters, and while he was 
present helped themselves to clothes, books, and money as 
they pleased, leaving him just enough garments for protec 
tion, and means to get back to Hong-Kong. One fellow had 
his hone, and being puzzled to know its use, brought it to 
Mr. Burns to learn what it was fit for, and was patiently 
taught the mode of sharpening a razor or knife on it. These 
ruffians did not belong to the villagers, but the latter made 
no attempt to defend or protect the foreigner. But, no doubt, 
this beginning had its salutary effect upon them." 

From another informant I am enabled to add one or 
two further touches to this characteristic and romantic 
incident. He had, it would appear, with some hesitation, 
and without any clear indication of the Master s will, pro 
ceeded westward beyond the range of his first labours, 
into a part of the country where the people were notori 
ously less accessible and friendly; and being afraid that 
he had run, without being sent, into the midst of unknown 
difficulties and dangers, he had lain long awake in anxious 
and pensive questioning. While still thus musing he 
became suddenly aware of the presence in the chamber 
of two muffied figures, who, approaching with stealthy 
steps and blackened faces to his bedside, stood over 
him with naked swords held to his breast. " Do no vio- 

508 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1863-68. 

lence, my friends," he said calmly, " and you shall have 
all I have;" and then followed the characteristic scene 
described by Dr. Williams. When the landlord of the 
house came in next morning to condole with his guest on 
his loss, "Poor fellows!" said he, "let us pray for them." 
The robbers took with them literally all he had, save only 
the contents of a loose bag, which lay in a corner of the 
room, and which, seeming to contain nothing but useless 
papers, had fortunately been neglected by them. Beneath 
the papers, however, there were some shreds of under 
garment, of which the missionary contrived to make for 
himself an outlandish costume, in which he found his 
way back to the sea-coast, and thence to Hong-kong; 
waiting under cover in the boat until the return of a mes 
senger supplied him with the means of appearing on shore 
in a more appropriate garb. 

"At this time," continues Dr. Williams, "the controversy 
among Protestant missionaries, in respect to the best word for 
God and god in Chinese, was carried on very warmly, and our 
friend could not but enter earnestly into the discussion of so 
vital a question. He and I took opposite sides, and we had 
some discussions on the nature and value of the arguments 
used in support of each, especially on the plurality of the idea 
connected in the minds of the natives with the word s/im, 
which to him was an insuperable reason for not using it for the 
true God. Mr. Burns had the true Scotch mind, and when he 
had made up his opinion, nothing had much power to move it. 
Views that to my mind had much weight to modify this idea 
of the plurality of the word shin, seemed to carry none to his; 
he had settled the matter in his mind, and the question need 
not therefore be revived for re-examination. 

" Dr. P. Parker had religious services at his house every 

JEt. 48-54-] TRAITS OF CHARACTER. 509 

Sabbath evening, and Mr. Burns often conducted them, 
preaching at times with great point and solemnity. The 
audience consisted mostly of the missionaries and their fami 
lies; but if the one whose turn it was to hold the service, was 
unable from any reason to fill his place, Mr. Burns usually 
supplied the gap, for he had said that he never could con 
scientiously say no to any application to preach, as long as he 
was physically able. There was therefore great disparity in 
his public ministrations, and sometimes he repeated himself 
without perhaps knowing it ; I don t think that he preached 
once in my hearing from notes, and as the week had been 
taken up with Chinese study and preaching, he, of course, 
could only make short preparation for these Sabbath evenings. 
Yet his intimate acquaintance with the Scriptures enabled 
him, if he was in good health, to illustrate and enforce the 
text and its instruction, so that every one could carry away a 
warning or an encouragement that would benefit him. 

" After a while circumstances arose that rendered it desir 
able in his opinion to remove some of the meetings held at 
Dr. Parker s house, and Mr. Burns took a leading part in 
endeavouring first, to prevent moving them at all, by obvi 
ating the causes which suggested it; and when this was found 
unattainable, by explaining the reasons which led to such a 
decision, in a letter he wrote upon the matter. The discussion 
continued for a week or two before the matter was settled, 
and during the days it went on I was struck with the manner 
in which feeling was restrained by a sense of duty in his 
mind. To most of the missionary circle, it seemed on some 
accounts best to content ourselves with an expression of 
opinion, and let that opinion gradually have its due weight in 
leading to a change in practice on the part of those we felt 
were fellow- Christians; but with Mr. Burns the witness must 
be borne at any rate, and the consequences be left with God. 

"He was induced ere long, by the little success the work 
had at Canton, to go further north, and try to reach people 
who lived away from so much contact as the Cantonese had 

510 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1863-68. 

with foreigners. He found the work more congenial at Amoy 
and Swatow, where, and in their vicinity, he spent many 
years, and did a great and lasting work in extending mis 
sionary labours among their rural populations, and founding 
Christian communities. 

"InAugust, 1854, 1 arrived in Amoy soon after his co-labourer, 
Dr. James Young, was laid aside from his work by illness. 
As soon as Mr. Burns heard of a sudden access of the malady, 
he came in from the country, to start immediately for home 
with the invalid and his motherless children. He consulted 
with no one but his Master, and every one agreed that the 
decision was a proper one, much as all his associates regretted 
the cause and its effect the illness of one, and the absence 
of the other from his interesting meetings in Pechuia. It no 
doubt saves much heart-rasping and mind-wearying thought, 
to be able, as he did, to decide at once, and act on a point, 
even if sometimes one acts unwisely. The next thing was to 
get a passage to Hong- Kong as soon as possible, in time for 
the outgoing P. and O. steamer. The only vessel available 
was the U.S.S. Powhatan, and the captain deemed it unad- 
visable to take the party as passengers. However Mr. Burns 
carried the day against the objections of the captain, whose 
ill-health was after all the principal ground for at first refusing 
the application. The skilful manner in which the domestic 
tie, of a darling daughter of the captain s in America, who was 
about the same age as Dr. Young s child, was brought up by 
our friend to induce him to carry the invalid to Hong- Kong, 
showed a good deal of insight into human nature. 

"It was on the way to Hong- Kong that I learned all that I 
then knew of this first outpouring of the Holy Spirit [in 
China], 1 and heard from his lips how he had been led to go to 

1 "Dr. Williams," says the Rev. Carstairs Douglas, "has here 
fallen into a mistake (not remarkable, considering the long period 
that intervenes) as to the history of the Amoy work. For there were 
a very considerable number of converts at Amoy before the Pechuia 
awakening began ; and the native agents alluded to were some of 

JEt. 48-54.] TRAITS OF CHARACTER. 511 

this place by much the same influences as Philip the evange 
list was led to go towards Gaza. I had been in China in the 
mission work twenty-one years, and now the blessing had 
really descended in an unmistakable way; and I rejoiced with 
him at the native agency and thoroughness of the work, and 
how God had taken the weak things of the world to show the 
power of his grace. I felt more encouraged than at anything 
I had before heard in China; and the evidences of God s 
approbation of the mission work here, which this movement 
then showed, have ever since gladdened my heart, and 
strengthened my faith in its final triumph. 

"After Mr. Burns return to China, I saw nothing of him till 
he had reached Hong-Kong, after his liberation by Governor 
Yeh at Canton, in October, 1856, after they had brought him 
overland to that city from Chaon-chow-foo by way of Kiaying- 
chow, in the eastern end of the province. He there learned 
that some of the native Christians who had been with him at 
Swatow before his own arrest, were in prison, and he wished 
to get near to them so that he might do what he could for 
their welfare. There was no vessel going to Swatow except 
a small native junk, and we dissuaded Mr. Burns from em 
barking in such a rickety craft at so late a period of the year, 
even as a matter of time ; for by a little delay he would no 
doubt find a safer vessel, which would land him there quicker. 
But nothing would move him. He had heard the voice of 
God, and felt no fears as to the result of the voyage. He left 
that night in her, reaching Swatow after nearly a month s 
tedious coasting, which however was, I suppose, no loss to 
him, for he preached to the crew, and suffered no derange 
ment in his plans by the delay. This example of our friend, 
in regarding the people wherever he met them as his audience, 
is one that cannot be too strongly urged upon all heralds of 

the fruits, even then already ripe, of that previous Amoy work. 
There seems also to be some confusion as to the influences which 
led to visiting Pechuia : these were the invitations of persons who 
had heard the gospel at Amoy, and the advice of the native agents. " 

512 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1863-68. 

the gospel in heathen lands. Yet this feature of his mind had 
its effect in deterring those around him from giving him 
advice when he asked it, inasmuch as he followed his inward 
convictions sometimes when outward arguments tended the 
other way. In this instance, the time of the year, and the 
unsettled condition of the coast, would have weighed with 
most men to seek another mode of conveyance ; but whether 
such a course as he took in such dilemmas that of seeking 
a manifestation of some kind to know what the will of God 
is would answer for all, or whether all are capable of hearing 
the inward voice, is a curious question. I have never known 
another person who had as little hesitation in following what 
he regarded as this inward monition and guidance. In this 
instance there was no long weighing of the reasons, nor much 
discussion upon their value ; he had looked squarely at both 
sides, and his choice had no revision. 

"After a lapse of six years, during which Mr. Burns had 
proved his devotion to the mission work in Fokien and 
Kiangsu by travelling and preaching, he and I arrived in 
Amoy the same day, he from Fuh-chow in April, 1 862. 

" Travel and exposure had made their marks on him, but 
he was still vigorous, and was projecting new trips in the 
surrounding country, then opening more than ever to the 
preaching of the gospel; and I was glad to hear how the 
work had progressed since the day he told me the story about 
Pechuia, eight years before, on board the Powhatan. I took 
a review of the twenty years which had elapsed since Dr. 
Abeel and Bishop Boone left Macao, in February, 1842, to 
begin a mission at Amoy, where the latter buried his admirable 
wife, and the former laboured on in faith and patience until 
others came to his help, and others to theirs, until we now 
see a Christian community preparing to take its place as an 
acknowledged fact in Chinese society. In laying the founda 
tions of this blessed superstructure, few have done more to 
the glory of God than William Burns. 

"The purpose for which he came to Peking in 1864, to 


endeavour to obtain the same recognition of the civil rights of 
Protestants that the Roman Catholics had, was not attained 
in the manner he wished ; but his mission was not fruitless. 
He made known the condition of the missions in Fokien 
province to the late Sir Frederick Bruce, and gave him a 
juster perception of the mode of carrying on missionary work 
than he had before, and the nature of the disabilities under 
which the converts then laboured. Sir Frederick declared 
that Mr. Burns was one of the most fascinating men in repre 
senting a case that he had ever met, and gave one a clear 
idea of whatever he undertook to describe. 1 

"The daily routine of the life he led in Peking for three 
years was very uniform. He dwelt by himself in one room, 
his own servant occupying the next, and almost every day 
visited one or other of the mission chapels connected with 
the four missions in the city. The version of the second part 
of the Pilgrim s Progress is likely to be the most permanent 
of his literary labours in the northern dialect ; for his Peep of 
Day and the version of the Psalms in tetrameters 2 are less 
acceptable to native taste. He visited frequently at the 
houses of his friends, who were always cheered by his 
presence, and towards the last part of his stay he gave all his 
strength to preaching the gospel to such audiences as were 
gathered in the chapels." 

In another letter, Dr. Williams adds: "In Peking I 
saw more of him than previously, and enjoyed his visits 
at my house greatly; he was particularly interested in the 
progress, causes, and conduct of the slavery war in the 
United States, and kept up a minute acquaintance with 
its events, studying the geography of the seats of war, the 
character of the principal leaders and generals, and the 

1 See in regard to this whole subject, a valuable paper in Appendix 
(No. IV.), on the recent troubles in China, by the Rev. Carstairs 
Douglas, M.A. 2 Scottice, long measure. 

2 K 

514 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1863-68. 

changes of public sentiment as the war developed more 
and more the detestable nature of the bondage of the 

To another valued friend and true yoke-fellow in the 
work of Christ, the Rev. Joseph Edkins, M.A., of the 
London Missionary Society, I am indebted for the fol 
lowing graphic and touching memorials, which will form a 
fitting sequel to Dr. Williams narrative, and give to us a 
still more distinct idea of the nature of his work, and of 
his manner of life, during those quiet and comparatively 
uneventful years the land of Beulah of a life which had 
had in full measure its Hills of Difficulty, its combats with 
Apollyon, and its solemn witnessings in Vanity Fair, as 
well as blessed glimpses of the Celestial City from the 
heights of the Delectable Hills: 

"The Rev. W. C. Burns came to Peking in 1863, and at once 
opened to Sir Frederick Bruce the matter to attempt the set 
tlement of which he had come. He went to stay with Rev. 
W. H. Collins (C.M.S.), who met him as he entered the city 
gate, and at once claimed him as a guest. It was not his 
object, however, to live with any of the mission families. He 
wished a house for himself. A small house with a little self- 
contained court was rented for him at 2s. 6d. a month. Here 
he lived for four years. This house had a south exposure. 
On the west was Mr. Burns room, with its two chairs, table, 
and khang. This last, used through all the north of China, 
is a brick structure at one end of the room, permeated by a 
winding flue, and when required can be heated from the front 
through an opening partly in the floor, and partly in the 
brick khang. On the east side was the servant s room, used 
also as kitchen. One servant was sufficient to buy, to cook, 
and to keep the house. When the servant went out, Mr. 


Burns stayed at home. This simplicity of living was happi 
ness to our lost friend. He enjoyed quietness, and the luxury 
of having few things to take care of. He delighted to live on 
little, that he might have more to give to the cause of God. 
He was a generous friend to the poor, to hospitals, to various 
mission schemes. 

"In the summer, according to Peking custom, he had an 
awning of reed-mats extended over his court. This, in north 
China, greatly helps the people to pass the summer in com 
fort. In the evening the mats of the awning are drawn open 
sufficiently to admit the night air. We have a hot short 
summer, at an average of 90, as we have a cold winter averag 
ing 15, when the ice never thaws till the opening of spring, 
but remains a foot thick through the season. Our friend had 
a small clay-stove lit for the season. Here he sat summer 
and winter with his teacher, engaged for a good part of each 
year in hymn-making and translation. 

" His first work in Peking was a volume of hymns, about 
fifty in number. These were chiefly translations from home 
hymns, or hymns used in the south of China rehabilitated in 
the mandarin dialect. They have been extensively used since, 
and will continue to be so. He usually adopted, in addition 
to the seven-foot measure, which is the commonest Chinese 
metre, the various measures in which English hymns are 
composed. He still speaks to us in our assemblies, and is the 
mouthpiece of our praise by these compositions, which gave 
him much agreeable occupation. 

"When he had printed this collection, he undertook a 
translation of the Peep of Day in fifty chapters. It treats of 
man, the creation and the fall, in nine chapters. The history 
of Jesus follows, and occupies the whole work to the forty-sixth 
chapter. It concludes with four chapters on pentecost, the 
deliverance of Peter from prison, the apocalypse of John, and 
the last judgment. This excellent little work has been widely 
circulated, and is found to form a very suitable introduction 
to the gospel history. Mr. Burns omitted some portions of 

516 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1863-68. 

the original, and substituted new narratives as appeared to 
him appropriate. At the end of each chapter there is a short 
Chinese poem, giving the cream of the preceding narrative in 
rhyme, and in a manner to which the natives of China are 
very much accustomed in their light literature. This work is 
in the Peking dialect. 

"The Pilgrim s Progress was his next work. Formerly at 
Amoy he had translated this book in a simple style. He now 
resolved to render it again into Chinese, adopting the dialect 
of Peking. The first and second parts are complete in two 
thick volumes. Some of the copies are illustrated with wood 
cuts. Some additions are found to the text in the second 
part, where an attempt has been made to increase the use 
fulness of the work to native women by showing the principles 
that should rule in Christian marriage. 

"Immediately after the completion of this work, he com 
menced a translation of the Psalms from the Hebrew. It was 
published in the spring of 1867, a year before his death. It is 
composed in four-word sentences throughout so as to assume 
a regular appearance of symmetry ; but this advantage has 
been gained at the expense of smoothness. To each psalm 
there is an introduction stating the argument. There are also 
many text-references to the New Testament and other parts 
of Scripture. These additions add much to the value of the 

"While engaged constantly in these literary enterprises, 
Mr. Burns never intermitted preaching when not physically 
incapacitated for it. He preached much at the chapel of the 
London Mission hospital, within two or three minutes walk of 
his residence. His assistance here was annually recognized by 
Dr. Dudgeon in the printed report. He preached also very 
frequently at a chapel of Dr. Martin s outside of the east gate, 
and at another more than a mile north of the London Mission 
hospital, belonging to the American Board. He also offi 
ciated occasionally at Mr. Collins chapel, belonging to the 
Church Missionary Society, on the west side of the city. His 

JEt. 48-54.] CATHOLIC SPIRIT. 517 

services at all these places were very acceptable, and given 
with the greatest good- will and the most catholic spirit : he 
thus aimed at the glory of Christ independently of his parti 
cular denomination, and was in this respect an example 
worthy of imitation, for the maintenance of sectarian distinc 
tions in China may be regarded as almost unnecessary. The 
truth that we are all one in Christ Jesus may well unite mis 
sionaries of different communions in heart and practice. 
Whenever the Church of Christ in China becomes strong 
enough to be separated from the British and American mis 
sionary organizations, it will be advisable for them to unite in 
one church system of their own, framed in a manner consonant 
with Scripture; but adapted for China, and not modelled after 
any of the existing sects of Western Christendom. With this 
theory Mr. Rums practice well agreed. He was at home with 
all Protestant Christians, and was greatly loved by all his 
brethren. His manly character, his sober views, his practical 
good sense, his kindly sociality, his mental strength, his 
moral decision, and his consistent and unaffected piety made 
him a friend greatly valued by us all. We enjoyed his coming 
to sit in the evenings, to share with us in his simple abstemi 
ous way at the social meal, to unite with us in family worship, 
or to join in the exercises of the week-evening prayer-meeting. 
He frequently preached in English at the Sunday evening 
service, held for the benefit of the mission families, and was 
always welcomed as one whose sermons were invariably char 
acterized by solidity and faithfulness. He impressed his 
auditors with the fact, that he was a man of power and de- 
votedness, a man whose atmosphere was prayer, and whose 
daily food was Scripture. 

" With his large-hearted kindness, and great willingness to 
do evangelistic work whenever and wherever there was an 
opening, he went no fewer than four times on journeys con 
nected with the country work of the London Mission at 
Peking. The first occasion was to Shen-cheu, a city south- 
south-west of Peking, and distant 170 miles. He went in 

57 8 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1863-68. 

response to an invitation from the people, who wished a 
preacher to come and tell them the gospel. He stayed there 
about three weeks, and when he left thought that at least two 
of the natives were suitable for baptism. The Bible distri 
butor who was with him thought there were four. Mr. Burns 
was very cautious in giving an opinion with regard to the 
fitness of applicants for baptism. His habit was to be stern 
in requiring decided sacrifices on the part of the inquirer, such 
as should constitute indubitable proof of his sincerity. It was 
perhaps this feeling which prevented his ever baptizing con 
verts. He left that for other missionaries to do, claiming on 
all occasions, as an evangelist and not a pastor, the privilege 
of exemption from responsibility. 

"Another town he visited was Tsai-yii; here he stayed a 
month on two occasions. The seeds of the gospel were, at 
this town, sown by him in some honest hearts, and grew to 
maturity after a long period. At that time the London 
Mission had a chapel there, with a lodging room annexed 
suitable for a missionary. Here he lived and daily preached 
the Word of Life. On one occasion a Russian physician went 
down to heal the sick, and on this occasion notice was sent 
previously, and placards were posted. Not very many 
patients appeared, and the kind Russian doctor returned 
after a few days. While he was there Mr. Burns preached, 
and acceded to the request made to him to have his portrait 
taken. This, it is believed, was the only time in his life that he 
consented to be photographed. It was a few days after his 
return to Peking that the likeness was taken by Dr. Pogogeff. 
It was for his mother s sake. Had he not known that she 
would be especially gratified by a portrait of him, he would 
probably have never consented to have it done, dreading the 
least appearance of vanity or self-idolatry. The publication 
of a woodcut from this picture in Sunday at Home, has made 
him widely known in his Chinese costume with shaved head 
and queue. He adopted this mode of dress about thirteen 
years (or fourteen) before his death, when at Shanghae, on a 


journey with Rev. J. H. Taylor, now of Yang-chow. He never 
urged other missionaries to adopt the Chinese dress, and but 
few followed his example. As a rule every man looks best in 
his own national dress. It became Mr. Burns, especially in his 
later life (when his hair grew nearly white), as well as most 
persons, although the deep-set eyes and prominent nose of the 
European physiognomy prevented him entirely from ever 
being taken for a Chinese. But he retained the costume, not 
because he felt it to be a duty to conform to the manner of 
the country, but from the inconvenience attendant in going 
back to the European mode. 

"On another occasion Mr. Burns went with a catechist 
and hospital dispenser to Pan-pi-tien, near the imperial 
western cemetery. He was there located in a temple at the 
invitation of the priest, who had made an offer of the property 
to the London Mission to found a hospital. Mr. Burns, 
having some knowledge of law, always took an interest in 
legal questions, and worked laboriously to arrive at a safe 
conclusion in all such matters. Many sick were healed, and 
to many the gospel was preached during this visit, but the 
temple was found not to be the priest s to give, and soon after 
Mr. Burns return the negotiation was terminated abruptly, 
by the removal of the priest to another temple. 

" Mr. Burns held very distinct and decided views on the 
most appropriate word in the Chinese language for God in 
the Christian sense. Without saying categorically that the 
Shang-ti of the Chinese classics is the true God/ he held 
that this term is the most appropriate to be used, on account 
of its being the most correct, distinct, noble, and unmistake- 
able word to be found. When in Peking an attempt was 
initiated to unite all Protestant Christians in China in the use 
of one term, and that the Roman Catholic term, Tien-chu, 
Lord of heaven, he withheld his consent, and was at the time 
the only Protestant missionary in Peking who did so. Thus 
for the whole of his long missionary course, of more than 
twenty years, he adhered steadily to the use of the term 

520 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1863-68. 

which has been adopted by the British and Foreign Bible 
Society, and is most extensively used in the Protestant mis 

"The change proposed extended only to the use of the 
Roman Catholic term in a single version, namely, that in the 
colloquial mandarin dialect, but it met with little favour in 
the southern stations, and is now supported by very few. 

"Strongly as he felt in regard to the use of the proper 
terms to be employed for God and for the Holy Spirit, he 
would, when preaching in the chapels of those missionaries 
whose views differed from his own, modify his phraseology 
so as to suit his peculiar position at the time. His broad and 
manifest charity, won \o him all his brethren." 

In the autumn of 1867, he left Peking, urged for 
ward as usual by the necessity that he ever felt laid upon 
him, of withdrawing from a field which was comparatively 
well occupied and cared for, and proceeding to others 
more neglected. His life at Peking had been peculiarly 
pleasant to him, and his friends and his work congenial; 
but he was all the more prepared to hear the voice that 
summoned him to a sterner and more self-denying service 
elsewhere. For the following account of the circum 
stances of his departure, and of his journey to Nieu- 
chwang, I am again indebted to Mr. Edkins graphic 

"Wang-hwan who was baptized by me in Peking four 
years ago, is a native of a village about thirty miles from 
Peking, and six miles from Tsai-yii, where at that time the 
London Mission had a chapel. He heard Mr. Burns 
occasionally at Tsai-yii, arid was afterwards brought to 
decision for the gospel in connection with the work of one of 
our catechists, for a time in charge at the chapel at Tsai-yii, 


and who is now dead. Wang-hwan became a changed man, 
and after his baptism in the hospital chapel, Peking, appeared 
to his neighbours a very different person from what he once 
was. They saw in him a man peaceable and well-behaved, 
whereas he had once been the opposite. 

"Mr. Burns took him with him after much consideration, 
and was influenced more by satisfactory evidence of deep 
interest in religion and a love for prayer, than by any ability 
that he showed. He had had the education of a small 
country farmer, that is three or four years schooling, just 
enough to enable him to transact ordinary business. Since 
that time he has improved himself. When Mr. Burns left 
Peking for Tientsin, in the autumn of 1 867, it was still an open 
question whether he would go to Nieu-chwang or to Shantung. 
I had been laying before him a request from Shantung from 
several persons for a preacher. If he had gone there he 
would have passed through the villages where the Methodist 
New Connexion Mission and our own are situated, and his 
experience in manifestations of the spiritual life both in 
Christian countries and in China would have rendered his 
testimony to the character of these Christians one of great 

"But his sense of duty and his knowledge of the need of 
a missionary at Nieu-chwarig, led him there in preference. 
The captain of the native junk in which he went would take 
no money from him for the passage. This was on account 
of his character, and that of the catechist. Going not for 
trade but to do good, it appeared to this heathen sailor un 
reasonable to accept payment of passage money. Arrived at 
Nieu-chwang they began to seek a house, and found one at 
last in the outskirts. Here they became domiciled, and 
public and private services were daily held. Many persons 
attended, and the hearts of our departed brother and of the 
catechist were cheered. 

"On Sundays Mr. Burns performed worship in English at 
the consulate as long as his health allowed." 

522 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1863-68. 

Of the general course of his life and labours during the 
few remaining days of his earthly ministry, the following 
brief recollections of the mate of a trading vessel which 
happened at that time to touch at the port of Nieu- 
chwang, afford an interesting and life-like glimpse : 

"In October, 1867," says this Christian seaman, in a com 
munication printed in the Sunday at Home, " I left Che-foo, 
in the barque Lady Alice, for Nieu-chwang, where we arrived 
about the 6th. 1 had learned from the missionaries at Che-foo 
that a missionary of the name of Burns was at Nieu-chwang. 
The first Lord s-day after arrival our captain and second mate 
went on shore to the British consul s office. This was the 
only place for worship at Nieu-chwang, except the meeting on 
board our vessel. It being the second mate s turn on shore, 
I told him if the minister was dressed like a Chinaman, to 
introduce himself to him, and deliver a message for me. On 
his return at dinner-time I was much cheered and delighted 
to hear that it was Mr. Burns that held the service, and that 
the service was no formal ceremony, nor with enticing words 
of man s wisdom, but very earnest and very faithful, warning 
them to attend to the salvation of their souls, and commend 
ing godliness as profitable in all things. After the service 
my friend carried out my wishes, and met a hearty welcome 
from Mr. Burns, who was himself cheered at hearing there 
were some belonging to our ship professing to be the ran 
somed of the Lord, and trying in some feeble way to acknow 
ledge him and commend him to others. 

"He sent me an invitation to come and see him on a 
certain day of the week, I forget now which day. His 
Chinese servant was to meet me on my landing, and conduct 
me to him. I landed at the appointed time, and was con 
ducted accordingly to the missionary I had never seen. I 
shall not soon forget it, for we seemed to meet as friends that 
had been acquainted for a long time. I felt perfectly at 


home with him. Mr. Burns walked up and down the yard 
of his house arm-in-arm with me, and talked to me as a 
friend, brother, or father, in the most kind and familiar 
manner. As iron sharpeneth iron, so did the countenance of 
a man his friend that day. 

"He told about how the Lord had guided him to that place 
(Nieu-chwang). He had many friends, he said, where he had 
been staying for four years before, and was very comfortable ; 
but he wanted to come to Nieu-chwang because there was no 
one labouring there. He said we must not study comfort : 
they that go to the front of the battle get the blessing ; the 
skulkers get no blessing. I have often thought of that since, 
for indeed it was a word in season to me at the time. He 
told me how he arrived there in a junk, or native vessel, and 
how kind they were to him, and how he had been guided to 
the house he was then living in. He spoke as seeing the 
dealing of God in his providence in all his ways. . . . 

"It was a very happy time, I think, to both a time of 
refreshing. I did not stay late, as I had some mile and a 
half to walk. The Chinaman again conducted me back. 
We started with the understanding that Mr. Burns was to 
visit our ship, I think the next evening ; so when I got on 
board I obtained permission from the captain for us to hold 
a meeting in the cabin. I hoisted my Bethel flag in the 
afternoon, and when our friend came on board we told him 
we had the royal standard flying, for I suppose you belong 
to the royal family. He took tea with me and the second 
mate (the captain was on shore), and in the evening, when 
all the crew were with us, he gave an address about the 
Saviour and the woman of Samaria. There was one illus 
tration I remember which shows his homely and forcible 
way of putting things. He compared the woman of Samaria 
to a fish with the hook in its mouth, twisting about, trying to 
get loose ; but the more it tried to clear itself the firmer hold 
the hook got of it. The whole of the address was very in 
teresting and very earnest, and was well received. 

524 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1863-68. 

"After he had done, he requested one of us to engage in 
prayer. Our cook, a black man, by the name of Caesar, 
offered a very earnest prayer. It was, indeed, pleasant, in 
this dry and barren land, thus, for a short time, to dwell 
together in unity. After our meeting was ended not one 
offered to move ; and our dear friend, sitting at the head of 
the table, told us about his travels in China, and of his being 
taken prisoner with two Chinese converts, and sent through 
the country, with many other things which are probably well 
known. Thus our time soon flew away, till the parting had 
to take place. Our cook had a set of Wesleyan hymn-books, 
which we used for worship. He sent Mr. Burns one, with 
which he was very pleaded, and talked of translating it into the 
Chinese language. This was one of the happiest evenings of 
our voyage. ... He spoke to me very affectionately about 
his mother, and most of his affairs. When the time drew 
near for us to part he handed me the Bible and bade me read 
something. I read the io3d Psalm, and could not help (nor 
need I try to) giving vent to my feelings while reading it, 
there seemed such a blessing flowing from it. It was like the 
river whose streams make glad the city of God. I think we 
could set to our seal that the word of God is true. After we 
had prayed, Mr. Burns said, The Lord is nigh to all that 
call upon him; and we both joined in saying, to all that 
call upon him in truth. . . . 

"When parting I spoke to him of his kindness, and the 
great honour I had received from him, when he put his arms 
around me, and said, Don t mention it, don t mention it! 
Our meeting is providential. Thus we parted. The China 
man again conducted me back in the beautiful still moonlight. 
I cannot attempt to describe the sweet and blessed medita 
tion I had while returning to my ship. I have thus simply 
spoken of my meeting, intercourse, and parting with a blessed 
man of God, the remembrance of which is still dear and 
sweet to me. I have good reasons to look back to this time, 
and praise that God who has been so merciful to me in all 

JEt. 48-54.] "AN ISRAELITE INDEED." 525 

my wanderings. Mr. Burns was a saving shield to me in 
God s providence at that place, and as an angel of the Lord. 

Blest be the tie that binds 
Our hearts in Christian love. 

By this shall all men know ye are my disciples, if ye love 
one another ; and every one that loveth him that begat loveth 
him that is begotten of him. Mr. Burns was an Israelite 
indeed. . . . 

"He then seemed," wrote Caesar the black cook in a post 
script to the above, " to me to have been well advanced in years. 
Nevertheless he moved about and spoke the Word of Life as 
brisk as can be expected from a man of thirty years of age. 
He said we all wanted stirring up ; and so he did stir us up 
on board of the ship, for he made a lasting impression on my 
mind. He spoke freely and boldly about the changes per 
taining to that world which is to come. He put me in mind 
of one who had already gone through his refining process. 
He appeared then to be ripe for glory, if we may use the term, 
and I feel sure that he is gone home to the city of the living 
God, and to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, who 
was waiting, no doubt, to welcome his ransomed and faithful 
one. He gave me the Pilgrim s Progress that he translated 
while he was out there, from English into the Chinese 
language. His last words to me were, Pray for me. He 
also wrote the words down on the book he gave me, so that I 
should not forget. Last night, unknowingly, 1 I prayed for 
him for the last time. So now my prayers cease from last 
night, and turn to praise ; and I shall expect to meet him face 
to face." 

On the 2ist November, he wrote the following lines, 
breathing his usual cheerful and happy spirit, to his 
valued colleague, Mr. Douglas, one of the last letters of 
any length he ever wrote on earth : 

1 Not knowing of his death. 

526 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1863-68. 

"Nieu-chwang, November 2ist,i 867. DEAR MR. DOUGLAS, 
Your letter of August 3ist reached me this P.M. per 
steamer Manchu, and as she is the last vessel for this season, 
I hasten to send a few lines by her to Shanghae. Many 
thanks for the life-like photograph of yourself which you have 
sent me. You are more like the man that you were intended 
to be with than without the beard. May it please God in 
his mercy long to preserve you in the health and vigour 
which you seemed to have enjoyed when the likeness was 
taken, and may your soul prosper and be in health/ even as 
the body prospers ! For the last five months, I have allowed 
my beard also to grow on the lower part of the face. This 
both saves a great deal of time and trouble, and, in this cold 
latitude, the hair is a protection to the throat. I fear I 
cannot write home pressing the claims of Singapore on our 
mission, when their energies are likely to be fully tasked in 
maintaining and extending the missions at Amoy, Swatow, 
and on Formosa. It seems to me that no place more suitable 
(or perhaps so suitable) could be recommended to the Irish 
Presbyterians than Nieu-chwang^ and Manchuria beyond, 
a vast, open, and unoccupied field, with a fine climate, and a 
population comparatively well off in a worldly point of view. 
In writing home, I have already made this suggestion, and I 
hope that on consideration you will see your way to second my 
proposal. If the Irish were here, would this not be a fine place 
to come to from the south for a change of air? and you your 
self, when needing such a change, would enjoy the oppor 
tunity of using and increasing your Mandarin. Mr. Cowie, 
too, would be only sent back to his Che-foo dialect, a great 
part of the people in this town being from that quarter. You 
can have no idea of the extent of the trade that is carried on 
here in grain and oil, as well as bean-cake, furs, &c. &c. I 
shall only mention what was told me by a gentleman con 
nected with the imperial customs, viz. : that two years ago it 
was estimated that during one winter 80,000 carts came to 
this place from the interior laden with grain and oil. It is 

^Et. 48-54.] LETTER TO MR. DOUGLAS. 527 

common for from 500 to 1000 to come in on a single day 
during the winter months; and throughout all the region 
which furnishes this supply, including the provinces of the 
Amour and Kirin, as well as the province of Kwan-tung^ 
pure Mandarin is universally spoken. Mr. Meadows is now 
absent on a three months journey to the north and east, 
passing through the centre of these thr x ee provinces. Romish 
priests are found here and there, but the only representative 
of the Protestant churches is my solitary self! I lately heard 
from Mr. Grant, and also from Si-boo. Mr. G. has now 
removed to Singapore from Penang, and so Singapore is not 
so destitute as it used to be. Mr. G. is married too, to a lady 
who lately came out, as perhaps you may have heard. As to 
the repairs at Pechuia, I shall be glad that you put me down, 
say, for the sum of ^20 sterling, but it will be the end of 
February before I can furnish you with an order on our 
treasurer for that amount, my accounts for the year being 
already made up. I am rejoiced to hear that while man is 
repairing the chapel, God himself is again graciously putting 
forth his hand to repair the spiritual walls of that little church. 
May backsliders return to their first love, as well as additions 
be made to the church of such as shall be saved ! Who was 
that young man an assistant of Dr. Maxwell s who was 
lost in the Formosa Channel? Not, I hope, the young man 
from Chioh-bey, who was afterwards chapel-keeper at Sin- 
koeya? I must now conclude, as it is getting late. Pray for 
us, and commend us to the prayers of the churches. I should 
have mentioned that Mr. Williamson of Che-foo, who was 
lately here, left a native assistant to sell books here during 
the winter. He and the man who came with me from Peking 
occupy themselves in this work in the principal street, preach 
ing at the same time to the people. I join them generally 
during a part of the time, and the opportunity is a valuable 
one, especially as our house is too retired for collecting 
passers-by. A separate house we thought we had got for 
preaching was at last held back, and is now an opium-smok- 

528 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1863-68. 

ing den ! Christian love to all the brethren. Yours affection 
ately, WM. C. BURNS." 

The following letter, which came to me altogether un 
sought, just as I was approaching this part of my task, 
will tell almost all that now remains to be said, and in 
terms than which the fondest affection could have desired 
nothing more loving or tender : 

"Nieu-chivang, 6th July, 1869. MY DEAR SIR, When in 
conversation with an intimate friend of your late brother the 
Rev. Wm. C. Burns, I related the particulars of my last in 
terview with him, which occurred a few days before his death ; 
and as far as I know, the last hour when he was in full 
possession of his faculties. I was then informed that you 
were gradually collecting material for a book which should 
illustrate his missionary labours in China, and was pressed 
to repeat to you what I knew of his closing life. This is 
difficult to do in a letter ; it is difficult to express in writing 
what I might so easily relate to you by word of mouth, with 
out entering rather at length into his previous life, i.e. at .this 
port. As you are aware, it was in August, 1867, that he 
arrived at Nieu-chwang ; for the purpose, as he then said, of 
seeing what could be done toward establishing a mission in 
the province of Manchuria. He was accompanied by a 
native Christian of Peking to assist him in his labours. 
With them they brought only their personal clothing, and 
Bibles and books for distribution. I had never seen your 
brother before ; but at my first interview was impressed with 
the earnest simplicity of his manner, and the cheerfulness 
which I afterwards noticed he at all times carried with him. 
A few days after this 1 went to visit him in the native town 
at a small inn where he was then staying. I found him 
lying down in a very small apartment, which was destitute 
of every comfort. He was ill, but arose to meet me. He 
would allow no expressions of pity for the want of these 

JEt. 48-54.] CLOSING SCENES. 529 

comforts, and soon made me forget them in listening to the 
history of his labours at Peking, while making translations 
of various works. I was from that moment very fully im 
pressed with the genuineness of the love which had actuated 
his motives in devoting his life to the work of a missionary. 
A little later on he had found a house wherein to begin his 
labours. His days were spent in preaching to the inhabitants 
in the streets, distributing and selling books. Sundays, he 
preached to the foreigners in the foreign settlement in the 
forenoon ; and in the afternoon to the natives at his house, 
which for all intents and purposes was recognized as the 
Christian chapel. It was delightful to see how faithfully he 
performed his duties, how on every Sabbath morning he 
appeared in our settlement punctual to the hour, having to 
come nearly two miles through the heat, and through the 
cold, and often to encounter the bad roads of the country. 
By his kindly manner, his spotless reputation, his Christian 
earnestness, he drew a goodly number to listen to him. As 
he talked on, his face became all alive with the deep faith he 
had in the truths he endeavoured to communicate ; and his 
face often and often became radiant with a light, revealing 
the love which warmed him into eloquence. He seemed to 
possess a zeal which might have belonged to the earlier days, 
when apostles went forth so fearless and with so much love. 
One could not but observe this peculiar power which he 
possessed. For a moment he would speak with great force, 
and then change to tones of gentleness which were as im 
pressive as they were childlike in their utterance. All this 
and far more you must know. Observing these character 
istics, led me to have confidence in the impressions he was 
likely to give to the natives. Even in the short time he spent 
among them here, a few learned to inquire into the Christian 

"Early in January he was taken ill with a cold which 
brought on fever, from which he never recovered. For weeks 
and months he lingered in helpless weakness. I went to see 

2 L 

530 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1863-68. 

him often. One day he said, I have been thinking that 
perhaps this is to be my last illness. From that time he 
frequently told me of his hopes and his fears. As he lay 
upon his bed, he thought out his plans for the future, and his 
sole desire to live seemed to be that he might labour to carry 
them out for the good of those he had come among. For a 
long time he would insist upon his assistant preaching in the 
next room, that he might listen. And nearly up to the time 
of his death, he would have him and his servant who by- 
the-by was becoming a Christian through his teaching 
conduct the morning and evening prayers by his bedside. 
When he spoke of life, he said what he himself would do. 
When he spoke of dteath, he prayed that others might be 
found to continue the work he had begun. When talking of 
either he was equally resigned always cheerful, always 
happy. If he had fears at all, they must have appertained 
more to the things of this world than to the other. And in 
preparing for this, he was preparing for the other. You know 
how he arranged for the support of his native assistant after 
his death, and until such a time as a foreigner should arrive. 
I will not therefore repeat. 

"And now I come to speak of the last hours. One evening 
about six o clock, I went to see him. I found him suffering 
from hard and difficult breathing, and I felt that death was 
near. So I sat by him and talked of the hour which was 
coming of the life which was beyond. In reply to my 
inquiry whether there was anything I could do for him after 
he was gone, he said, No, I have arranged everything; all I 
have to ask is that you will keep your promise in regard to 
my wishes for this mission. I began to repeat to him 
familiar passages from the Scriptures, in which he joined as 
often as his strength would allow; he would listen until I 
came to the lines which he loved the most, when he would 
say them aloud, his voice though very low, yet singularly 
deep. When I began the psalm, The Lord is my Shepherd, 
a beautiful smile broke over his countenance and he pressed 

JEt. 48-54.] CLOSING SCENES. 531 

my hand more firmly; and his voice assumed, with all its 
weakness, something of the old depth as we came to the 
words, Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of 
death I will fear no evil. When with much fervour he had 
repeated the Lord s Prayer, we sat in silence. He assured 
me he was very happy. And thus he died, as it were, among 
the people with whom he had cast his lot ; indeed we might 
almost say among the very scenes with which he had identified 
his life. One who could have watched his declining days 
when he naturally, more or less, gave expression to his views, 
would have marked with interest the contrast between the 
mind and thoughts so trained to higher themes, and the heart 
so contented with lowly things. The little room in which he 
died had but few comforts, certainly no luxuries. The form 
on which he slept, a table, two chairs, two book-cases, and 
an open-grate, foreign stove made up the furniture. The 
light came into the room through a large paper window. But 
I shall long remember the solemn hour which I have en 
deavoured to describe to you. The assistant sat at his feet 
weeping, now and then raising his eyes upward in silent 
prayer, and the servant on one ^ide watching with tenderness 
his wants. And these two simple-minded natives, judging 
from their life and sayings since, must have profited by his 
last injunctions. And so after the years of toil he passed 
away into the other world. God, he said, will carry on the 
good work. Ah ! no, I have no fears for that. 

" It was a rare privilege to have known your brother. His 
firmness of purpose was remarkable; his Christian faith 
supporting to himself, as well as encouraging to others ; his 
gentleness most touching; his happiness genuine. And to 
me these incidents which I have related contain more than 
I am able to express." 

One or two further touches from like loving hands will 
complete the picture of this calm and radiant sun-setting. 
The following reminiscences of his humble native assistant, 

532 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1863-68. 

Wang-hwang, have been kindly furnished to me by Mr. 
Edkins, who took them down from his own lips : 

"While he was here," says Mr. Edkins, in continuation of 
the notes already quoted, " I questioned him about Mr. Burns 
last words of testimony to the gospel, in the service of which 
he lived and died. What he said is here appended. It was 
the 28th day of the 7th (Chinese) month when we arrived, 
and we were five days waiting at Takoo (the port at the 
mouth of the Tien-tsin river). While there we went daily from 
our boat to preach in the streets. When we went on board 
the junk, the captain declined to attend our services ; but on 
the third day he and the two cooks joined us. When Mr. 
Burns offered him passage-money, the captain said, I know 
you are not going to seek gain, for in that case you would 
certainly travel by steamer, or by a foreign sailing vessel. He 
belongs to a fishing village called Tien-kia-tsui, a few miles 
north of Takoo on the coast. 

" We went on well till the i6th day of the I2th month. On 
this day Mr. Burns was taken ill, and lay for ninety-four days, 
when his spirit fled. He had .felt pleasure in preaching that 
day. Many foreigners were present, which rejoiced him. 
When he came back from the English service, and saw sixty 
or seventy Chinese pressing in to hear, he said, I will preach 
to them. He preached for two hours. After this he felt no 
appetite, took no food, and lay down weary. About eleven 
o clock P.M. he waked shaking with cold. For twenty days 
after this he did not leave the house. When prayer time 
came, he said, Come to my bedside, I will still preach to 
you. So the little band of inquirers gathered with Wang- 
hwan round the sick missionary, for whom it was appointed 
that he should soon go home. 

" When his illness became severe, he made me promise that 
I would stay at Nieu-chwang. When we left Peking he was 
afraid, he told me, lest he should take the wrong man, a man 
different in mind and aim to himself. I said I would cer- 

jEt. 48-54-] WANG S REMINISCENCES. 533 

tainly stay at Nieu-chwang and carry out his injunctions. 
But/ he said, you have no strength or learning, and you 
must therefore be the more careful to be right, and to do what 
is right, so as to secure favour from God and approval from 
man. You must pray much for aid. 

" One time when his sickness was severe he lay as if asleep, 
when in a moment I heard him talking. I asked him what 
he was saying. He replied, Ah ! did you hear ? I was saying 
over the I2ist Psalm. I was speaking with God, not with 

" Another time he laughed. I asked him why? He said, 
God was speaking with me, and this made my heart 

" Two days later, he said to me, God tells me to go. I 
have some things to say to you. As to my burial, 1 wish to 
have no new clothes bought, but to be buried in these. (Re 
ferring to his Chinese clothing. The custom of the country is 
to buy a new suit, and lay the deceased in his coffin with 
complete dress as if living. It is quite a common thing to 
draw on the new clothing some hours before the death takes 
place.) He further said, Do not let the funeral be on Sunday. 
At the burial read I Cor. i5th chapter. Pray with the in 
quirers. Tell them to be sure to come and see me again in 
the place to which I am going. Do not weep after my death. 
Do not pray for me, but pray for the living. Diligently pray, 
and God will certainly send you a missionary. 

" At another time, when he was a little better, a letter came 
from his mother. It said, Do not think of me, but of your 
work. He told me what his mother said, and her words 
rejoiced him greatly. He added, She says I am a knife that 
must be worn out by cutting, not by rusting. He wished it 
might be so. He also said, I am one of four brothers (or I 
have four brothers ), one of them I would wish to exhort, but 
I shall not now have the opportunity. I hope others may 
do so. 

" He urged me to believe as he did, pray as he did, read 



diligently as he did, and use my mind as he did, and, said 
he, God will help you to preach. 

" If you are reproached, bear it patiently. To be patient 
is to glorify God. I was not sorry when in the south the time 
of suffering came, nor should you be. Think of what some 
missionaries have had to suffer, and such things should 
rather be rejoiced in as proof of God s care. 

" You can be my substitute when the new missionaries 
come. I cannot be here to receive them. You can do so, and 
must act for me. You must have the same heart as I have. 

" I felt in Peking that my work there was done. It was a 
trial to leave friends. Yet for the gospel I could not but go. 
We shall meet again in heaven ; and think of the knife. You 
must be one of God s knives. 

" If there are inquirers, you must be careful to lead them 
in the right path, remembering that you are yourself not very 
strong nor learned. Take care to be diligent. Be indulgent 
to inquirers, exhort them much, and be very mindful of the 
example you set them, lest you should dishonour your Saviour, 
and cause sorrow to your pastor and friends. Always think 
of this. 

" I am very happy. I do not fear death. After death there 
is unspeakable happiness to be hoped for. Do not think I am 
sad at the thought of dying. I am not at all so. God s pro 
mises are true, and I fear not. My work has been little, but 
I have not knowingly disobeyed God s commands. 

"The inquirers, five or six in number, went in to see him. 
He said, You see in me proof that the Christian doctrine is 
true. I am well supported now, and this strength which is 
given me, not to shrink at the approach of death, you can 
take as proof that what I believe is true ; my illness, my de 
caying body, are also a testimony to the truth of the Bible. 
When I am gone you will have no missionary here. You 
must therefore pray much and think and read much that you 
may understand well. I have left friends and home to come 
here for the sake of this gospel that now supports me. I rely 

JEt. 48-54.] "TO MY MOTHER." 535 

on God now. Listen you to him, and let us resolve all to 
meet in heaven. Hope for this. Live for this. " 

It was in the midst of this "time of languishing," and 
when the shadows of the great night began visibly to 
close around him, that he wrote in his own hand, still 
clear and strong as of old, the following touching lines to 
his mother embodying his last solemn testimony in 
behalf of Christ, and of that great cause to which he had 
devoted his life : 


"At the end of last year I got a severe chill which has 
not yet left the system, producing chilliness and fever 
every night, and for the last two nights this has been 
followed by perspiration, which rapidly diminishes the 
strength. Unless it should please God to rebuke the 
disease, it is evident what the end must soon be, and I 
write these lines beforehand to say that I am happy, and 
ready through the abounding grace of God either to live 
or to die. May the God of all consolation comfort you 
when the tidings of my decease shall reach you, and 
through the redeeming blood of JESUS may we meet with 
joy before the throne above! WM. C. BURNS. 
" Nieu-chivang, Jan. i$th, 1868. 

"P.S. Dr. Watson is very kind, and does everything 
in his power for my recovery." 

To this is attached on a small fragment of Chinese paper, 
also in his own hand a list of the texts on which he had 

536 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1863-68. 

preached at Nieu-chwang, from a tender feeling obviously 
that she to whom he wrote would like to see it. Perhaps 
there are other eyes that may linger over the lines with 
mournful interest. It will be observed that the first two 
Sabbaths are blank, in consequence of the suffering and 
enfeebled state in which he arrived from Peking. 


Sept. ist, No meeting 

Sept 8th, No meeting. 

Sept. i5th, ... ... John iii. 16. 

Sept. 22d, John xv. 14. 

Sept. 29th, Gal. v. 16. 

Oct. 6th, Mat. v. 3-12. 

Oct. I3th, John vi. 27. 

Oct. 2oth, Luke xviii. 1-14. 

Oct. 27th, Luke xix. i-io. 

Nov. 3d, Mr Williamson, John iv. 14. 

Nov. loth, Mat. xxv. 1-13. 

Nov. 1 7th, John i. 29. 

Nov. 24th, Isaiah Iv. 6, 7. 

Dec. ist, Luke xv. (a good day). 

Dec. 8th, Luke xviii. 18-23. 

Dec. 1 5th, James iv. 7, 8. 

Dec. 22d, Rom. iii. 20-22. 

Dec. 29th, Rev. xx. 11-15." 

Thus his last public testimony was to the same great 
truth of which he had witnessed so powerfully on the 
streets of Newcastle twenty-seven years before, 1 and the 
overwhelming conviction of which had so often imparted 

1 See p. 227. 

REST. 537 

an almost preternatural terribleness and grandeur to his 

The tide of life now gently ebbed away. He spoke 
little even on those subjects that were dearest to him, 
lying for long days and nights in silence that was broken 
only by the soft footsteps of his Chinese assistant, and 
by the voices of the worshippers from time to time in the 
neighbouring room, in which it was his delight to know 
that his loved work was still carried on. His peace was 
calm and deep, but undemonstrative like that of the 
river which speaks only by its silence and by the soft 
whispering of the reeds and lapping of the waters on its 
banks. "He did not speak much," wrote the Rev. A. 
Williamson, "on religious subjects either to Chinese or 
foreigners; and when he did, the burden of his remarks 
was that he was prepared to die or to live as the Lord 
might determine." "About a month after the commence 
ment of his illness," says another friend who often visited 
him at this time, "he began to apprehend its fatal issue, 
but said he was quite prepared. After six weeks or so, 
his fresh looks began to leave him. The brightness of 
his eye faded, and gradually he became like an old decay 
ing man." Yet now and then the old fire would for a 
moment awake, and impart an expiring energy alike to 
his voice and his frame. "Finding a decided change for 
the worse, and great distress in breathing, the gentleman 
just referred to repeated several portions of Scripture, 
among others Psalm xxiii. Hesitating at the words, 
Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of 
death, Mr. Burns took it up, and in a deep strong voice 

538 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. 1.1865-68. 

continued and finished the psalm. He also greatly 
relished John xiv., Let not your heart be troubled, and 
on closing the exercise with the Lord s Prayer Mr. 
Burns suddenly became emphatic, and repeated the latter 
portion and doxology, TOR THINE is THE KINGDOM, AND 
THE POWER, AND THE GLORY, with extraordinary power 
and decision. This was the last time he manifested any 
power of mind. Afterwards he only evinced recognition, 
and at last hardly spoke or even opened his eyes. Thus 
he passed away." 

This is the last glimpse we have of him ere he passes 
out of sight. On the afternoon of the day on which he 
died, the kind doctor who had so tenderly watched over 
him throughout, hearing that he was worse, hastened, in 
company with the consular assistant, to his bedside, but 
just too late to see him die, though the heart and pulse 
were still beating when they arrived. 

He was buried in the foreign graveyard, according to 
the simple rites of the Presbyterian Church, Dr. Watson, 
according to his own express desire, reading those grand 
words in i Cor. xv. 42-57 : "So also is the resurrection of 
the dead; it is sown in corruption, it is raised in incor- 
ruption : it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory : it is 
sown in weakness, it is raised in power: it is sown a 
natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a 
natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is 
written, The first man Adam was made a living soul, the 
last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that 
was not first, which is spiritual, but that which is natural; 
and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of 


the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from 
heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are 
earthy ; and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are 
heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the 
earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. 
Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot 
inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption 
inherit incorruption. Behold, I show you a mystery; 
We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a 
moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump, 
(for the trumpet shall sound;) and the dead shall be raised 
incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this cor 
ruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must 
put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have 
put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on 
immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that 
is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, 
where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The 
sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 
But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory, 
through our Lord Jesus Christ." 

It was a Dreary and desolate place, and the river 
was fast washing it away, but Dr. Watson informs me 
in his last letter that the precious dust has been since 
removed to a piece of ground recently purchased by the 
foreign residents for a cemetery. "We hope," says he, 
"to make our new burying-ground somewhat like such a 
place at home, where occasionally we may walk, and call 
back to memory the lives of those we loved." There the 
place of his grave is marked, according to the terms of 

540 LIFE OF REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS. [1863-68. 

his will, by a modest head-stone, bearing the following 
simple legend : 





From the Presbyterian Church in England. 

Born at Dun, Scotland, April 1st, 1815. 

Arrived in China, November 1847. 

Died at Port of Nieu-chwang, 

4th April, 1868. 


His beloved colleague Mr. Douglas, who on hearing of 
the critical nature of his illness, had hastened from Amoy, 
that he might minister to him in his time of need, found 
on his arrival that he had already two months before 
passed away, leaving behind him a general sentiment 
of deep and reverential sorrow both among the European 
and native residents, conspicuous among whom was his 
faithful assistant Wang, who still wore the long queue and 
the unshaven beard, after the manner of his people in 
their deepest mourning for a father or a mother. 



SO your loved and honoured William," wrote the 
Rev. Charles Brown to his mother, on hearing 
the tidings of his death, "has obtained the fulfilment of 
Christ s prayer, Father, I will that they also whom thou 
hast given me be with me where I am, that they may 
behold my glory. I am confident that amid the sorrow 
of your great loss, you are enabled to give thanks and 
say, It is the Lord: It is well. He makes no mistake 
as to the time, or the place, or the way of removing his 
servants to be with himself. Your dear William s history 
has, in fact, been one so palpably stamped with the 
signatures of a divine leading, that it were unlawful to 
entertain a doubt that the Lord just saw his work done, and 
the time, for him, of the everlasting rest arrived. I con 
fess that I was quite unprepared for the tidings. I had 
dreamed that there remained for William a time of coming 
home (necessitated of course by his serious illness) ; that 
you would have the happiness of embracing him once 
more; that we should all see again his grave benevolent 
countenance; and that the Church and the cause of 
China and her missions might be greatly benefited. But 


now that the Lord has given his own unerring decision, I 
think I can see things that go to reconcile me to it, even 
apart from its simple unerringness as given by Him. I 
am not sure thai William would have taken kindly to 
going up and down this country and talking. China and 
its labours, far from the ear and eye of man, was his 
sphere. He had literally buried himself in that vast land 
a noble, living burial ! No doubt, also, his system was 
spent. He had done his work (not a short one, be it 
remembered) in such a manner that even his robust 
constitution was undermined. And so things have just 
reached their natural close." 

Doubtless this is the true reading of the matter, so far 
as it can be read by us on this side the vail. If now I 
must speak more of the character and work of my beloved 
and lamented brother, it must still be in the words of 
others; and for this there are abundant materials in the 
numerous and most touching tributes to his noble life 
and precious labours which have spontaneously come 
from every side. Of these it is fitting that I should quote 
first the words of his esteemed colleague and friend, the 
Rev. W. S. Swanson, in a sermon preached at Amoy 
shortly after receiving the tidings of his death : " And 
now that his life has closed, so far as regards earth, it re 
mains as a precious legacy to us who are left. In reviewing 
it, what shall we say were the main characteristics of this 
man? He was a thorough scholar, with a well-furnished 
and an active mind; he possessed in no ordinary degree 
a sound judgment, and a large amount of common se"nse; 
he was one of the ablest and most popular preachers of 


his day; he was a man of great energy, indomitable per 
severance, and of ardent zeal. But not these properties 
severally, nor all combined, seem to me to be the reason 
to account for the power he possessed, the success that 
followed his public work, or the mark he has left behind 

"In personal intercourse with him one thing struck me 
above all others his prayerfulness; and herein I believe 
we get some insight into his remarkable success and 
power. No matter what he did, or had to do, whether of 
importance or of a nature you might call trivial, he made 
it a matter of prayer. This prayerfulness of his seems to 
me to be the outstanding feature of his Christian life and 
his missionary work. 

"Another very marked feature of his character was his 
faithfulness. You never could mistake what he .was, nor 
whose servant he considered himself to be. He believed, 
as we all do, that Christ and the world could not amalga 
mate; and he was faithful to his belief. And what was 
the result? The testimony of those who care little for 
Christ and the things of his kingdom is unanimous in 
this, that he was a faithful, earnest, and consistent Chris 
tian; and this testimony they never withheld. Agree or 
not with him as they might, they did not fail to perceive, 
and were not slow to acknowledge, the faithfulness of the 
man to the great Master he served. This faithfulness 
made him sometimes seem harsh, it may be, to some, and 
not so regardful as they might have wished him to be of 
the feelings of others. But this could be thought only by 
those who did not know him. He was very tender, and 


very chary of giving offence ; but not so much so as to 
prevent him from denouncing where denunciation was 
needed, or rebuking where rebuke seemed to him to be 

" There is one other point in his character to which I 
must refer, and then I have done. To many he seemed 
eccentric, and to some morose. He was neither. There 
might be some shadow of seeming evidence for the former; 
there was none for the latter. He set a high ideal before 
himself as the ideal of the Christian missionary; and he 
did not hesitate to adopt any mode of life, or to enter 
upon any course of action, that seemed to him to be 
necessary, or even beneficial, to the proper carrying on of 
the work he came to do. As I have said already, the 
motive from which he acted was always the same; and one 
hardly dared to blame him in matters of no importance 
whatever when this was known. And now when we look 
back on his history, we may perhaps be led to believe that 
even in regard to the mode and localities of his missionary 
life, he acted in the way which, in his case, and with his 
peculiar and most marked individuality, was calculated 
to be of most benefit." 

The feature of his Christian life here first referred to, is 
so pre-eminently characteristic, that I am tempted to add 
the following words of another: "Above all," says an 
able writer in the Sunday at Home, "Mr. Burns was a man 
of prayer. No one could be long in his company without 
discovering that. All the week long he filled the 
fountains of his spirit with prayer, and on Sabbath the 
full fountain gave forth its abundant treasures. There was 


a freshness, a simplicity, a scriptural force and directness 
in his prayers, that formed the best of all preparations for 
the discourse that was to follow. Out of doors, we have 
often felt, as we heard him preach, that the opening prayer 
of the service was like the ploughing up of the field, it so 
opened the heart, and quickened and informed the con 
science; the sermon that followed was the sowing of the 
seed in the prepared soil; and the concluding prayer was 
like the after harrowing of the ground, fixing down the 
seed that had been sown." 

To any one in the least degree acquainted with him, 
or who had come even for a day into casual contact with 
him, it would not have been needful to have said even 
this much in regard to that which was in truth so much a 
part of himself, as to be inseparable from his very idea. 
His whole life was literally a life of prayer, and his whole 
ministry a series of battles fought at the mercy-seat. A 
friend who was under the same roof with him the day before 
he began his labours in St. Peter s, tells me that after walk 
ing round the parish with one of the elders, whose guest 
he was, he shut himself up in his chamber, and was found 
long afterwards lying on his face in an agony of prayer 
the source doubtless of the holy calm which so struck the 
hearers on the succeeding morning. 1 There is an entry in 

1 "I had the privilege of getting acquainted with him, at the com 
mencement of his ministry in St. Peter s, Dundee, while he resided 
at The Crescent, with Mr. P. H. Thorns; in whose family I had 
been resident governess for several years. The day after he came to 
us, Mr. Thorns took him out to show him the boundaries of the 
parish, and to see a few of the people in St. Peter s district. They 
returned in the evening. Mr. Burns went to his room, and whilst 

2 M 


his journal, during the time of his residence in Edinburgh, 
which is perhaps too sacred to quote, but to which I can 
not withhold a reference in this connection. He seems 
to have possessed a private key to the church of St. Luke s, 
and there we find him, at least on one occasion, "detained" 
a whole night in solitary prayer "before the Lord." Such 
incidents as these let us far into the secret of where his 
great strength lay. 

The Rev. Dr. Talmage, of the American Board of 
Missions, who, along with his admirable and lamented 
colleague, Mr. Doty", knew him so well during his early 
labours at Amoy, adds one or two characteristic traits 
which his friends will delight to recognize : " He was," 
he says, "very careful of his health, avoiding unnecessary 
exposure, abstemious in his diet, and very particular in 
regard to his clothing, guarding against sudden changes 
of temperature. Although living by himself, he made it a 
rule to take tea, and spend a part or the whole of the 
evening of every day of the week, except one, with some 
one of the missionary families. We all enjoyed greatly, 

we waited for his coming down stairs to dinner, we heard a heavy 
groan. Thinking he had been taken ill, Mrs. Thorns ran up stairs, 
and found him lying on his face on the floor groaning before the 
Lord ! He had gotten such an overwhelming sense of his responsi 
bility for the souls of that people, that he could then think of nothing 
else. In his absence of mind, he had left his door partially open, 
which Mrs. Thorns shut ; and we did not see him again till late in 
the evening, when he came for the family worship. His prayer then 
was one continued strain of self-loathing, and pleading for mercy 
through the blood of the Lamb of God. It happened that his 
room was next to mine, and all that night I heard him still groaning 
in prayer 1" 


and felt profited by this social intercourse with him. . . . 
He also carefully watched the indications of Providence, 
expecting to be led in the right way. I may mention a 
fact to illustrate this. He had planned a visit with some 
of our native helpers to the island of Quemoy, situated on 
the north-east side of the entrance to Amoy harbour. 
The day appointed to go proved rainy; from this he 
gathered that he should go in some other direction. 
While meditating on this subject an inquirer from a village 
near Pechuia came to his room, and requested him to 
visit the region of his native place. This was forthwith 
decided on. On their way to the boat they were met by 
an elderly man, an inquirer, who, on learning in what 
direction they were going, told them that he had a son in 
business at the village of Pechuia, and invited them to go 
to his son s shop, who, he said, would give them a hearty 
welcome. Such were the leadings of Providence, by 
which the gospel was first carried to that region. The 
remarkable blessings which followed that visit are well 
known. . . . 

" His greatest power in preaching seemed to me 
to consist in the manner in which he quoted the Holy 
Scriptures. In this I do not think that I have ever heard 
him surpassed. Hence, in labouring among the Chinese, 
it was over the native Christians and inquirers that he 
exerted his greatest influence for good. 

"On this account it seemed to some (perhaps to all) of 
us that his labours would have been still more efficient if 
he had remained longer, or had settled down permanently 
in some one district of country, instead of pursuing so 


desultory a course of labour. A man with his gifts, I 
should suppose, would be just adapted to a field of labour 
such as Amoy now is, where there are so many small 
churches and companies of inquirers scattered throughout 
the region, and where the good seed of the Word has been 
sown so widely. Such a field would have had more like 
ness to those fields in Scotland and Canada, where his 
labours had been so wonderfully blessed. 

"I say it seemed, for knowing his earnestness in seeking 
the divine guidance, we dare not say that he did not 
obtain it. 

"He was a great (not perhaps in the eyes of the world) 
and good man; but he regarded himself as having pecu 
liarities, and did not think that others should adopt his 
plan of labour." 

Of the style of his preaching at his best times, I cannot 
better speak than in the words of a writer already quoted : 
" His voice was clear, full, and of a great compass and 
power. By nearly constant use, indoors and out, its finer 
tones were roughened when we heard it ; but, for all the 
purposes of an evangelist, it was one of the finest we have 
ever heard. In preaching he used no notes, had but 
little action, and no art. His power was solely, humanly 
speaking, from the weight, clearness, abundance, and 
vigour of his matter, and from the vivid force of his own 
feelings and convictions of the truth of what he was 
uttering. He believed, and therefore spoke. God was 
visible to him as he preached; and so he soon became 
visible also to at least some of his hearers. He used but 
few illustrations, and when he did use them they were 


short and telling. His style was firm, terse, Saxon, 
abounding in short sentences; and he was mighty in the 
Scriptures. Sometimes you would have thought, in listen 
ing to some of his solemn appeals, that you were hearing 
a new chapter of the Bible when first spoken by a living 
prophet. His manner was not only solemn, but pre 
eminently solemnizing. Few we might say none that 
came to laugh remained long in the laughing mood. He 
was a man, whether in the pulpit or out of it, whom you 
might treat many ways, but you could nowhere, nowhen, 
laugh at him. And if you tried to argue with him, you 
came away, if victorious in your own eyes, at least 
thoroughly conscious that you had grappled with no 
despicable, no common adversary. He was ever calm, cool, 
self-possessed. Preaching one day in Montreal, Mr. Burns 
was roughly handled by a Popish crowd, some of whom 
threw stones, by one of which Mr. Burns was cut in the 
face. A party of the 93d Highlanders heard of the fracas, 
and rushed to the rescue, headed by one Hector M Pher- 
son, now labouring as a missionary at St. Martin s, near 
Perth, and to whom the preaching of Mr. Burns had been 
blessed. To the earnest inquiry of the soldier, What s 
all this? Mr. Burns quietly wiped off the blood, and 
with a smile said, Never mind; it s only a little wound 
received in the Master s service. 1 If in preaching, indoors 
or out, he was in any way interrupted, he was never 
flurried, and knew well how to turn any interruption to his 
own advantage. A friend has often graphically repeated 

1 This incident was mentioned before in Chapter X., but I give 
the extract unbroken for the sake of the additional trait here given. 


to the writer an instance illustrative of this. Once on a 
fine summer Sabbath evening, he was preaching to a vast 
crowd at the approach to a railway station. A tall man, 
slightly intoxicated, in the outer edge of the crowd was 
rudely interrupting, and interjecting occasional comments, 
exciting the risibility of those around him. Mr. Burns 
paused a moment, turned his eyes on the man: You are 
tall and strong; but you are not too tall for a coffin, nor 
too strong for the worms! You are tall and strong; but 
not too tall for the grave, nor too strong for death ! You 
are tall and strong; rJut you will soon have to stand forth, 
one of the crowd, before the great white throne; and how 
will you face the Judge of the whole earth ! Tall and 
strong as you are, you cannot be hid from God; the rocks 
and mountains will not cover you; his all-seeing eye is on 
you now! This was spoken with a slow deliberation 
that made every word tell, not only on the man, but on 
the crowd. It was absolutely withering and terrible, 
our informant used to say; the man was sobered in one 
moment. He seemed to bow himself down, as if to 
hide himself from that eye, and became at once the most 
attentive, and eager, and respectful listener the preacher 

In regard to the manner of his outer life, no man ever 
held himself more absolutely loose to the world, and to the 
things that are in the world. Literally he deemed not 
that anything that he possessed was his own, save only 
that he might use it in the service of Christ and human 
souls. Scrupulously exact and methodical in the use of 
his means, and rigid in his economy as regarded himself, he 


was conspicuously bountiful and free-handed in the dis 
pensation of them to others. His whole income, from 
the first day on which he had any income to the last, was 
thus spent, with the exception only of what was necessary 
to supply for himself the barest necessities of life, and an 
annual gift of love to his one surviving parent. He literally 
fulfilled his own ideal, as conveyed in words that have 
been often quoted: "The happiest state of a Christian 
on earth seems to be this that he should }mvt few wants. 
If a man have Christ in his heart, and heaven before his 
eye, and only as much of temporal blessings as is just 
needful to carry him safely through life, then pain and 
sorrow have little to shoot at such a man has very little 
to lose. To be in union with Him, who is the Shepherd 
of Israel, and to walk very near to Him who is a sun and 
shield that comprehends all that a poor sinner requires 
to make him happy between this and heaven." 

How vividly do I remember the moment, a little more 
than a year ago, when the trunk which had come home from 
China containing nearly all of property that he left behind 
him in the world was opened, amid a group of young and 
wondering faces, a few sheets of Chinese printed matter, 
a Chinese and an English Bible, an old writing-case, one 
or two small books, a Chinese lantern, a single Chinese 
dress, and the blue flag of the "Gospel Boat." "Surely," 
whispered one little one amid the awestruck silence, 
"surely he must have been very poor!" There was One, 
we felt, standing amongst us, though unseen, who for his 
sake had been poorer still. 

Of the results of his work in the Chinese field it is diffi- 


cult to speak. Undoubtedly his life there was far more 
powerful as an influence than as an agency. It was not 
so much by what he said, or by what he did, as by what he 
was, that he made his presence felt over so wide a surface 
of that vast land, and that "being dead, he yet speaketh." 
"I never expect to see his like again," says an esteemed 
missionary of another communion, who only knew him 
for a very short time. "We are all, as I believe, serving 
God in our divine vocations, with greater gladness, and 
more fervid zeal, from having communed with your 
brother in his heavenly walk and noble aspirations." 
" Know him, sir?" exclaimed another, with almost indig 
nant surprise, when asked if he knew a brother missionary 
of the name of William Burns, "all China knows him; 
he is the holiest man alive." His life, in short, was " a 
sign" to all who came in contact with him, and in the 
face of a luxurious and self-indulgent age, of an absolute 
consecration of heart to God, which knew no reserves, 
flinched from no sacrifices, and in very deed counted all 
things loss for Christ. In fine, to use the words of the Rev. 
James Johnston, once his colleague in mission work, and 
since for many years the esteemed secretary of the Scottish 
Committee: "Reckoned by the number of conversions 
under his direct preaching, the results are small; measured 
by the effect of his personal influence, the results are great 
From the nature of the work for which he was specially 
qualified, and to which he entirely gave himself that of 
a pioneer or evangelist he could not expect to reap the 
fruits himself. His work was to break up the ground and 
sow the seed, not to gather the harves