Tuesday, February 10, 2009

'I Climb the Rainbow Through the Rain'. George Matheson -XIX

George Matheson had at first found it difficult to obtain a pastorate in the Church of Scotland because of his blindness. Now, after almost twenty years of ministry at Innellan, that prejudice was counter-acted by his undoubted greatness in the ministry, of which his being asked to preach before the Queen was just a sign. The people at Innellan were not insensible of this fact, and there were fears that their minister, even though he seemed quite happy among them, would leave them, being called away to another church.
So it was to prove. In 1886 a call came for him to St. Bernard's Church in Edinburgh. Not that the parish chose him, but that the Presbytery, into whose hands the responsibility of calling a minister had fallen when the congregation failed to call one within the six months required by the law of the Church, put his name forward. Dr. Currie, a member of the Presbytery, had heard Matheson preach, and felt that the minister of Innellan would be a greater force if he was translated to the capital.
Matheson's name was brought before the St. Bernard's congregation, and the result was a unanimous call. It was almost unheard-of for a minister to refuse such a call, and despite the ties that bound him to his seaside parish, Matheson accepted. It was a difficult decision, but the Chuch had spoken, and Matheson determined to obey. On the13th of April Matheson and his sister were summonned to the Churh at Innellan and presented with parting-gifts. He made his way to Edinburgh, and on 12th May 1886 he was inducted to the charge of St. Bernard's Edinburgh. He was to remain at St. Bernard's for thirteen years, pastor of one of the largest congregations in the city of Edinburgh, the capital of the Kingdom of Scotland.
The new pastor of St. Bernard's was at the height of his powers, physically well, his mental powers at their peak. He had mastered as much ancient and modern thought as he could, and he had met the challenges to Faith and come out still believing. The church was full to overflowing under his ministry, and full of people of all sorts, from university professors to labourers. Students faced by the intellectual challenges of the latter part of the Victorian age came to him to hear that faith and intellect were not opposed, men who had even ceased to believe in God came to him, and through his ministry they were brought to worship that God in whom they had lost faith. The frankness and flashes of humour in his preaching were entirely his, and attracted men for whom frankness was the greatest of virtues. Paradoxically, his ability to paint word-pictures was another of his great skills, although he was blind, he could describe things seen with such vividness as to almost bring them before the eyes of his congregation. His prayers were even more impressive, not artificial, but full of the reality of a Christian life, and a knowledge of God.
And, God willing, next time we shall continue with the Edinburgh Ministry.



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