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HE time had arrived when Duncan Matheson, now
sixteen years of age, must decide as to his future
calling. His education was good for his years, his
talents were of a superior order, and he might have
entered the University with the fairest prospects. But fond
as he was of learning, and ambitious of rising in the world,
the conditions attached to his enjoyment of a college educa­
tion were such as he could not accept. He was unconverted,
and he would not be a minister because he could not be a
hypocrite. His novel-reading had set him a dreaming; he
would become a sculptor. The mallet and chisel were his
fascination; Rome and the ancient masters rose before the
eye of fancy; and visions of success and glory dazzled his
view. But how is he to climb so lofty a steep? He boldly
resolves to plant his foot on the lowest possible round of
the ladder: he will begin his career of fame as a stone-
cutter. His general talents, and in particular his turn for
mechanics, seemed to mark him out for the occupation of
a builder. Accordingly he was apprenticed to a master,
and sent to hew his native sandstone at Kildrummie, where
he wrote his first letter to his friends at Huntly. Here, as he
tells, romance is quickly changed for reality. At the end
of six months the stone-hewing is exhausted, and his master

LEAVES HOME FOR EDINBURGH,                 17

sends him to the quarry. This is going down the ladder,
not up; and here his apprenticeship ends. From Kil-
drummie he goes to Banff, where his quick parts procure
him employment in the building of a bank. He saves all
he can of his wages ; and although his mother needs not
his aid, his affectionate heart finds an unspeakable joy in
sending her all his savings.

Whilst he is hewing stones the Divine Worker is busy
with mallet and chisel of sharp conviction and providential
dealing upon his rough granite nature. He would be a
sculptor, a builder, a worker of great works. The Master
of all masters had another design, a better way, and was
even now rough-hewing this proud spirit, and training the
young tradesman to be a sculptor of souls and a builder of
God‘s temple. There is no rest in the young man’s spirit;
he will not have religion, and yet he cannot do without it.
He goes to hear the late estimable minister of Banff,
Mr Grant. The subject of discourse is “A good man.”
Matheson is convinced by a clear statement of the truth
that no man can be really good, good in the sight of God,
who is not regenerate. He next goes to hear the venerable
John Murker, minister of the Independent Church in the
same town. The preacher is that day reasoning, like Paul,
on temperance, righteousness, and judgment to come.
Trembling under the word, the young stone-cutter goes away
resolved to hear the faithful preacher no more. He then
turns his steps to the neighbouring town of Macduff, and
listens for a season to Mr. Leslie, the late earnest and
devoted minister of the Free Church ; but in vain. What
he really sought for, though he did not know it, was a
gospel that would give him rest without repentance, and
salvation without a sacrifice of self.

Work failing he returned home, bade farewell to his
fàther‘s house, and carrying with him the counsels and
prayers of his mother, who was then in declining health, he
went to Edinburgh. Here he lodged with a godly couple,
who he says did all they could for his soul. The providential
hammer and chisel were again at work, and the Spirit of
grace plied him in various ways. He must needs sit under
the most faithful ministry he can find, and accordingly goes
to hear Mr. Moody Stuart. No sooner is he seated than a


18                          HIS FELLOW- WORKMEN.

lady enters the same pew, and leaning her head on the
book-board engages in secret prayer. Matheson is self-
condemned; conscience upbraids him for his prayerlessness.
He is now at the preacher’s mercy ; the truth spoken with
faithful plainness and holy fervour deepens his unrest into
anguish, and he goes away saying to himself, “ I cannot
bear this; if I am to come here, I must be converted.”
The evil spirit of unbelief triumphed; he resolved to return
to that church no more. During the rest of the summer he
entered no place of worship, but spent his Sabbaths in
walking abroad and in novel-reading. He dared not open
the Bible; the very sight of it pierced his heart with an
indescribable pang. He tried hard to avoid everything
suggestive of eternity. Daily did he flee from the presence
of the Lord; and often did he rebelliously banish from his
mind the thoughts by which the Holy Spirit was striving to
draw him to the Saviour.

His fellow-workmen were for the most part Godless,
drunken, and dissipated in the extreme. But he was pre­
served from joining in their follies; he never once could be
induced to enter a public-house; and he was often shocked
and saddened at the terrible miseries which these free­
thinkers and free-livers were constantly bringing on them­
selves. If the fear of God did not restrain him, he
remembered the prayers, the counsels, and the tears of his
mother. When about to err, her gentle reproof sounded in
his ear. In his sleep he seemed to see her beckoning him
to the way of righteousness; and when all else failed, one
monitor never failed effeotually to warn him away from the
gates of evil; that monitor was the remembrance of his
mother’s hollow and ominous cough. It is told of Simon
Peter that throughout his life the hearing of a cock crow at
any hour, and under all circumstances, caused him to burst
into tears. Such was the power of that one look of love
that melted the sinning disciple’s heart, and reclaimed the
wanderer. By how little a thing can God hold fast a strong
man, and accomplish a great work ! From the day he
parted with his mother till the day of his death, Duncan
Matheson, manly and brave-hearted though he was, could
never hear the cough of the consumptive without being
deeply moved. The cords of love twined by a parent’s hand

TO DIE OR BE CONVERTED.                      19

around his heart he could not undo; and it may be safely
asserted that except the grace of God nothing is more
powerful than the wise affection of a mother.

One night he was induced by his fellow-workmen to go
to an infidel meeting; but just as he was about to enter the
room he remembered that the eye of God was upon him,
he seemed to hear his mother’s counsel, and her dying
cough. It was enough. He suddenly stopped, turned back,
fled from the place, and went home.

When, many years afterwards, he sought for his former
companions in toil, he found that “ most of them filled a
drunkard’s grave ; not one of them was known to have
turned to God.” Well might he exclaim, as he did, “Oh, the
wondrous grace of God to me !“

Although careful of his morals, he hated all close dealing
about his soul. This was the sore part which could not
bear to be touched. On one occasion he met a faithful
Baptist minister, who put the “one thing needful” plainly
before him; but young Matheson adroitly shifted the ground
by raising the question of Infant Baptism, which proved a
too successful diversion from the great question.

In October, 1845, he was called home to see his mother
die. The last year of her life was the brightest; she had
reached Pisgah and could see the Land of Promise. She
spoke to her son of Christ; entreated him to follow the
Saviour ; and charged him to meet her in heaven. Taking
his hand in hers she bade him farewell, and then gently fell
asleep in Jesus. Again, in the hour of grief divine love
assailed the stubborn heart, but as yet the only result was a
resolution to arise and seek the Lord. The noblest affec­
tions of our nature, and the bitterest sorrow of life, alike
and unitedly fail to bring sinners to the Saviour.

After building a house for his father and the family, he
returned to Edinburgh with a strange impression, of which
he spake to his friends, that either he should die or be
converted there. Thus the all-wise and gracious Spirit
condescends to seek admission into our evil hearts by the
lowest door. By putting before us the alternative of death
or life, he appeals to our self-interest and our fears, if by
any means He may obtain a footing within us for the further-
ance of his merciful design.

C 2



In Edinburgh he strove to forget his good resolutions,
and went on much as before, guarding his morals, shutting
out conviction, and making no surrender to the Lord Jesus.
Bent on professional success, he gave himself to the study
of drawing and the acquisition of useful knowledge, with
praiseworthy diligence improving his mind. To keep his
thoughts occupied, and his heart quiet, he resorted to Free­
masonry, which, as he acknowledged, did his conscience
no good; for he found the freedom not such as he needed,
and the secret no substitute for the mysteries of the king­
dom of God.

One day a discussion on the evidences of the truth of
Christianity arose among the stone-cutters. Duncan Mathe-
son was the champion of the Bible. The leading sceptic,
beaten in argument, assailed religion through the inconsis­
tencies of its friends, declaring that Matheson was the only
consistent Christian he had ever met. This compliment to
his external morality, instead of pleasing his vanity, aroused
his conscience, and he secretly charged himself with sheer
hypocrisy in defending the truth, to whose divine power he
felt in his heart he was an utter stranger. Another day,
seeing a fellow-workman look sad, he expressed his sympathy,
and found the man was distressed about his sins. Matheson
took him aside, and although himself ignorant of the right­
eousness of God, and justification by faith in the Lord
Jesus, directed him as best he could to the path of life.
But this act recoiled on himself, and his conscience, now
constantly awake, began to upbraid him. “You’re a hypo­
crite,” said he to himself. “ You point others to Christ, and
all the while you are treading the way to hell yourself.”
Then followed a fierce struggle between light and darkness;
his soul was tortured almost to madness—a crisis was at

His state at this time is by no means uncommon. On
the one hand his conscience enlightened by the law of God
suffered him not to plunge into the pleasures of the world,
whilst on the other hand he knew not the peace of God.
He could not forget God, and when he remembered God
he was troubled. Poised between heaven and earth, as it
were, he had religion enough to make him careful and sad,
t not enough to make him holy and happy. Into infi-



delity he dared not plunge. Two convictions, like two
unseen hands, held him fast. The one, firm belief in re­
generation as a great fact essential to salvation ; the other,
an undoubted consciousness that he was not born again.
As yet, however, regeneration, if an acknowledged neces­
sity, seemed a dark and uninviting mystery. Thorns and
briars of the wilderness were now to be his teachers. He
was to learn the way of salvation in a fire that consumes
everything but truth. Let us hear his own story.

“On Thursday, 25th Oct., 1846, being the fast-day before
communion, I attended Lady Glenorchy‘s church, where I
heard Mr. A. Bonar, biographer of M‘Cheyne, preach on
the portion of the wicked in Psalm xi., ‘ Upon the wicked
He shall rain snares, fire, and brimstone, and an horrible
tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup.’ I felt as
he proceeded as if all were to myself. I dreaded the por­
tion I was about to receive. I knew I deserved it. I left
the church weeping, but tried to hush my fears by fostering
in my mind a purpose of being converted that day twelve
months. I had the notion that I could be converted when
I liked : I had only to begin praying, and reading, &c, and
then all would come right. Fatal delusion ! There are gales
of mercy, there are tides of grace, which do not always wait
for us. It will always be man’s inconvenient season when
it is God’s convenient time. I was afraid to return to the
church in the evening. Satan furnished me with a pillow
on which to sleep. It was this : ‘ If you are to be converted
you will be converted; if not, you cannot help it.’ I took
the opiate greedily, and was rocked to sleep in the devil‘s

“ Many strike on this rock; many a noble ship has been
dashed to pieces here. This is not Calvinism, but fatalism.
Can the husbandman expect to reap if he does not sow, or
the sailor reach the port if he does not spread the sail to
catch the breeze ? What sick man would say, ‘ If I am to
get well I shall, no matter though a physician be not called
or medicine taken.’ Of all preachers of election, Satan is
the worst He distorts that glorious truth, the first link in
the golden chain of man’s salvation. He hides the blood
of Christ through which sinners should behold it. He keeps
out of sight the only decree with which sinners have to do,



viz., ‘He that believeth not shall be damned.’ ‘You are
not elect,’ said the adversary to a sorely­ tried Christian.
‘ Elect!‘ replied the man of God. ‘Have you seen the
book of God ? Liar, get you hence ;I have had more than
ye ever had—an offer of Jesus Christ, and I have taken

“Next day I was sad, and unable to smile; but I tried to
conceal my state. Sermon after sermon rose to mind, and
my dying mother‘s counsels flashed into my heart. When
the church bells began to ring on Saturday, two fellow-work-
men, G. T. and M. T., infidels, began to curse and swear,
blaspheming especially the Lord‘s Supper. Shocked, I could
have fled from the place ; and the prayer came into my
heart, ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they
do.’ Then a voice seemed to say, ‘ How do you take the
name of Father into your lips, seeing you reject Christ?
Your hell will be deeper than theirs; for you know, and do
not. God is not your Father : Satan is.’

“ I could work no more, and I went home to ponder and
weep. The arrow was driven home; and this time I did
not seek to withdraw it. On Sabbath morning I was early
astir, and, Bible in hand, was the first at church. In serving
a table, Mr. Bonar said, ‘ This is a feast of love, the deepest
love.’ A voice seemed to ask me, ‘Why are you not at
it?’ My heart was thrilled. I looked round, and saw no
one. The question drove me from the church, and I rushed
home. Even in this solemn hour I dared dally with my
convictions, and went to see a friend, resolved to shun the
church lest I should be tormented afresh. My heart was
too full to conceal my thoughts, and I began to speak about
religion. The topic being manifestly disagreeable, I left the
house with feelings of wounded pride. Reaching the Calton
Hill, I looked down upon the city, with its thousands of
gleaming lights, and upward to the stars, which seemed to
shine most sweetly upon me. I felt inwardly urged to go to
church. I went with reluctance, and almost not knowing
what I was doing, or whither I was going. I became des­
perate and passed the church door, but returned as if some
invisible power moved me against my will. Again, when I
was about to enter, I tore myself away. Two powers seemed
to be lugging me hither and thither. Again I returned, and



with a bound crossed the threshold, and mounting the gallery
stairs took my seat in the passage. I felt I was a poor,
miserable castaway. The sermon was nearly finished. One
showed me the text: ‘ The Lord, the Lord God, merciful
and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and
truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and
transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the
guilty.’ (Ex. xxxiv. 6, 7.) Mr. A. Bonar was preacher, and
had come to the words, ‘ will by no means clear the guilty.’
In a moment I felt the burning, piercing eye of God upon
me. A mountain of wrath seemed to crush me down ; and
hell was opened beneath me. All round about me seemed
to be on fire. Louder than the loudest thunder came the
words: ‘By no means clear the guilty;’ and, ‘Cursed is
every one that continueth not in all things that are written
in the book of the law to do them.’ The congregation was
dismissed; the people departed; but I remained fixed to
the spot. Some as they passed gave me a look of pity. At
last I rose and reeled home to my lodgings, realising with
awful vividness God, heaven, hell, judgment, and eternity.
Falling on my knees I uttered my first real prayer, ‘ God
be merciful to me, a sinner.’ I was now thoroughly awakened,
but I was not saved.

“When the eyes are opened by the Holy Ghost, how
differently are all things seen : they stand forth then in
their true light. I saw the mass around me hurrying un­
saved to eternity. I wondered they could laugh. It seemed
to me like the condemned dancing on the scaffold. The
heavens seemed as if clothed in sackcloth. Wherever I
went I felt the burning eye of God upon me; and the
threatenings of the Word came like peals of artillery in
quick succession. I feared I should drop into hell at
every step, and, like most other awakened sinners, I began
to work for life. The language of my heart was, ‘ Have
patience with me, and I will pay Thee all.’ How I did pray,
and agonise, and suffer ! I was on the wrong track, and
did not know that

“ ' Doing is a deadly thing,
Doing ends in death.’

I began to read many chapters, thinking that would do me



good. I prayed all day long, but I was no better. If a tear
started to my eye I felt proud of it, and thought surely now
Jesus will regard my case. I had a long stair of seventy
steps to climb to my room : at every step I uttered a prayer.
Like Luther as he ascended the steps in the church at
Rome, I groaned out a petition for deliverance; but no
voice came to me saying, ‘The just shall live by faith.’
I laboured to make of my works a ladder to heaven. I
put my anxiety in place of Christ; and instead of seeking
the One to be believed in, I set out in search of faith.
Many a weary hour I spent trying to discover what faith is.
I read all the books I could find, and searched the Word of
God. Faith ! faith ! faith ! was still my cry. Oh, if I had
faith ! The Star of Bethlehem was shining brightly before
me. Jesus was standing near. He was uttering his voice,
‘ Look unto Me, and be ye saved.’ But I passed Him by.

“I went to a minister in Edinburgh, who began to tell me
how good a thing it was to be awakened, and with a view
to my being comforted applied passages of scripture that
belong only to the people of God. He urged me to hope,
instead of bidding me believe. Thus many are led to hope
they may be saved, and rest there, instead of obeying the
command of God to ‘believe on Him whom He hath
sent.’ The effect was, I became proud of my convictions;
my fears were hushed; for some days I felt great self-satis­
faction ; and, thinking that He who had begun a good work
would carry it on, went smoothly.

“ Some days after this I was startled by finding my heart
beginning to love things I had forsaken, and then came the
terrible question, What if this is false peace ? I felt I had
not taken hold of Christ, and something said, Now or never!
now or never! Make sure work for eternity !

“How few can deal with anxious souls ! Here was a good
man settling me on my, taking the children‘s bread
and giving it to a dog. He had no right to give me any
promise addressed to the children of God. The promises
are all yea and amen, but only in Christ Jesus. From
Genesis to Revelation the promises belong to the Christian :
they are his in Christ. Many have gone down to hell,
pillowing their head on a promise, but not taking Christ.
The good man was wrong in applying to me the text,

DAWNING LIGHT.                                15

‘Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath
begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of
Jesus Christ ‘ (Phil. i. 6); for it refers to the work of sancti-
fication, and as yet I was not justified.

“Mr. Cowie used to say, ‘Some get such a fright at Sinai
that they are in danger of running past Jerusalem;‘ that is
to say, the very depth of their convictions may prevent
them from entering the kingdom, for fear their peace may not
be right. So it was with me. Fearing lest I should come
short of eternal life, I cared not what happened if only I
might be really saved.

“ I sought my old friend John Cameron, who wept in his
sympathy with me, and took me to his minister, Christopher
Anderson (Baptist), author of the ‘Annals of the English
Bible.‘ This devoted man listened to my story, told in a ro­
mantic style; for I spoke of my sufferings as if I was passing
through purgatorial fires. He saw I was lifted up, and said,
‘Young man, were I to say I am pleased with you, you
would go down that stair in a happy frame, but you are yet
far from the kingdom of God. You have never yet dealt
with the justice of God. His justice in condemning you
for breaking his law has never yet entered your thoughts.
I see you are angry with God for not giving you salvation
as the reward of works. But it must be grace from first to
last.’ After a few words he told me to go. I thought it
very harsh. I seemed cut off from all hope. I reeled to
the door, and when I reached the street I felt shut up to
God and alone with Him, and exclaimed, ‘ O God, it shall
henceforth be Thee, and Thee alone.’ After this I desired
that everything might be settled between God and myself,
and I prayed that every truth might be burnt into my heart
by the Holy Ghost.

“ Wearied and anxious, I left for home. A great change
was seen in me. My fierce temper was checked : the lion
had thus far become a lamb. All the town heard of it, and
pitied the poor lad who had, as they thought, gone mad.
Old companions who I feared would hinder me never came
near me. Faith was still the prevailing question. The
doctrine of the imputation of Adam’s sin I could not see,
and I rebelled against the sovereignty of God, and thought
He dealt hardly with me. Slowly the truth in regard to



imputation was opened up. Dimly I began to see that I
had nothing but unholy thoughts, words, or deeds, and that
for these I must die. I saw that Jesus only had holy
thoughts, words, and deeds, and that these were placed to
my account the moment I believed. I wanted a righteous­
ness in which I could appear before God, and slowly
Jehovah-Tsidkenu, the Lord Himself our Righteousness,
shone forth in all his glory.

“I was standing on the ioth December, 1846, at the end
of my father‘s house, and meditating on that precious word
which has brought peace to countless weary ones : ‘ God
so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son,
that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but
have everlasting life.’ (John iii. 16.) I saw that God loved
me, for I was one of the world. I saw the proof of his love
in the giving of his Son Jesus. I saw that ‘whosoever’
meant anybody and everybody, and therefore me, even me.
I saw the result of believing—that I would not perish, but
have everlasting life. I was enabled to take God at his
word. I saw no one, but Jesus only, all in all in redemp­
tion. My burden fell from my back, and I was saved. Yes,
saved ! That hour angels rejoiced over one more sinner
brought to the Saviour, and new songs rang through the
courts of that city to which I had now got a title, and of
which I had now become an heir. Bunyan describes his
pilgrim as giving three leaps for joy as his burden rolled
into the open sepulchre of Christ. I could not contain
myself for joy. I sang the new song, salvation through the
blood of the Lamb. The very heavens appeared as if
covered with glory. I felt the calm of a pardoned sinner ;
yet I had no thought about my safety. I saw only the
person of Jesus. I wept for my sin that had nailed Him
to the cross, and they were tears of true repentance.
Formerly I had set up repentance as a toll between me and
the cross ; now it came freely as the tear that faith wept. I
felt I had passed from death unto life—that old things had
passed away, and all things had become new.

“I wondered I had stumbled at the simplicity of the
way. I saw everything so plain that I longed to go and
tell all the world. I felt as if I could at once convince the
most sceptical and the most hardened; and that if I met a



thousand Manassehs I could say, ‘Yet there is room.’ I
went everywhere, telling my glad story. Some even of the
saints looked incredulous. Others, like the elder brother in
the parable, did not like the music and the dancing. They
had never left their Father’s dwelling; they had never been
sin-sick, and knew not what it is to be healed ; no fatted
calf had been killed for them. These warned me against
enthusiasm, and exhorted me to be sober-minded. One old
man told me I was on the mount, but would soon be down
again. Another said I needed great humility; but I went
on singing my song. Prayer had given place to praise, and
night and day for more than three days I continued to
thank God for ‘his unspeakable gift.’ I longed to die that
I might sin no more, and discover more fully the height
and the depth, the length and the breadth of that love
which I now knew ‘passeth knowledge.’”

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