Friday, February 13, 2009

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

George Matheson's Edinburgh ministry extended beyond those living and studying in the city. The capital of Scotland attracted many overseas visitors, and in particular American tourists made a point of visiting St. Bernard's. The old parish Church looked as quaint within as it did without, with high box pews and a high gallery running about the sides of the church, and the high pulpit was small and topped with a large sounding-board. One American, Rev. Charles Pankhurst, wrote of the pews,
"There must be some unusual attraction to bring people to such seats as these. We should never come but once, unless the pulpit had so much of intellectual and spiritual vitality as to make us forget where we were."

Yet these uncomfortable pews were crowded every Sunday! American visitors were amazed at the ability of the minister to 'read' the Bible from memory, but mot of all, it was his ability as a preacher, his ability to apprehend the life of the people. Pankhurst wrote: "Though his visual sight is entirely eclipsed he does 'see God', and he does see into the hearts of his hearers." What was the 'secret' of this? Simply put, blindness had made Matheson a man of prayer. His long struggles with pain and suffering had drawn him closer to God, and in his darkness he held communion with God. He held the most precious part of his work on the Lord's Day was to lead the congregation in prayer. "Prayer never causes me an effort," he said once. "When I pray I know I am addressing the Deity, but, when I preach, the devil may be among the congregation."

Yet his preaching was also precious to his hearers, as they heard Christ set forth. The power of his vivid imagination brought the Biblical narratives to life, and had the congregation hanging on his every word.

But he was a pastor, not just a preacher. Many would have forgiven the blind minister had he left the work of pastoral visitation to his elders, but no, Matheson, the great writer, the Royal preacher, the poet, insisted on visiting his own congregation - all 1500 members of the church, and many congregants who were not members. In addition to systematic pastoral visitation, he visited the sick, always with a word for Christ. And in addition to this, with the help of his secretary, he kept up with the literature of the day, while writing books and magazine articles! The congregation truly appreciated this pastoral care, all the more so as their pastor's own infirmities might have been used as a reason to excuse him from such work. The parish, in Stockbridge, had areas of deep deprivation, but Matheson gladly visited the poor and needy. This was a work few men in full health would have performed, and by his hard toil in this work, the blind minise on the hearts of his people. In six months he visited the whole membership, and confirmed that he was to be pastor, not just a preacher.

God willing, next time we shall continue with Matheson's adjustments to the pastorate at St. Bernard's.



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