Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Wanderer: Donald Fraser. XVII.

Donald Fraser, like many married men, took fewer holidays when his five children were growing up, and when he did travel for reasons other than work, it was because of his health. We think sometimes that these active Victorian ministers worked TOO hard, but then we recall that it is perhaps better to wear out than to rust out.
Fraser's first overseas trip for his health was an ocean cruise to Madeira on a steamer going to the Cape of Good Hope. Providentially Sir Donald Currie, M.P., a friend of Fraser's and owner of a steamship line, offered a cabin to Dr. and Mrs. Fraser, so that the holiday was cheap as well as refreshing. It had the desired effect, hastening his recovery from the illness that nearly prostrated him and sending him home refreshed and re-invigorated to carry out the work of the Gospel ministry.
In 1883, however, Fraser was taken ill again, this time with sciatica. On this occasion he fulfilled a great desire - to see with his own eyes the land in which the events recorded in the Bible had taken place. He sailed this time to Malta, again accompanied by his faithful wife. From there they sailed to Sicily, and the sciatica was left in Palermo. From there they went to Rome, and then Mrs. Fraser returned to England. Dr. Fraser, however, continued on to the Holy Land by way of Corfu, Constantinople, Beirut and Jaffa. He travelled through the land to Egypt, from whence he returned to England by sea. The visit to Jerusalem and Bethlehem enthralled him, seeing those places where the Son of God walked and did His miracles. He found he endorsed the words of a fellow traveller that "Before one has been in Bible Lands, he reads the Scriptures by gaslight, but after he has been there he reads by electric light." We have not been to the lands of the Bible, but we have been to lands much like them, and must admit there is some truth to this if Fraser simply means that things seem more vivid. When one knows whast 'The wilderness' is, has seen 'a city built on a hill', and has seen an eastern shepherd leading his flock, the Bible's narratives come alive as they do not when one is constantly tempted to judge by the way we do things in our own land - a way often very different from the way things are done in the East.
Should every minister go to the lands of the Bible? We would not go that far. But if one has the opportunity, go! Go and do what Fraser did on his return - tell the Congregation about it. Show them the pictures, in glowing colour (Fraser had to make do with sepia).

Fraser had but a few years left to him after 1884. God willing, we shall give some account of those years next time.



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