Wednesday, March 04, 2009

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

The St. Bernard's years were years of great literary productivity. In addition to the major works that have already been referred to, Matheson published many other books during this time, not to mention numerous articles in magazines and periodicals. Among the books he wrote were The Distinctive Messages of the Old Religions, in which he explored the differences between Christianity and the world religions, and The Lady Ecclesia, an allegory in which he sought to explore the development of Christian experience. Another book of meditations, Words by the Wayside, and Sidelights from Patmos were also published. The latter book, as the titles suggests, was not an exposition of the Revelation, but a series of chapters in which the Revelation was made to speak to the modern world. Matheson stated the aim of the book thus:
"I believe the design of John in Patmos was to state the principles which would
regulate the good time coming. He wishes to indicate what in any world would be
to him the consummation of happiness. He does so sometimes in sober language,
sometimes in allegoric symbols. I have made a few selections both from the sober
language and from the allegoric symbols, with a view of testing the adaptation
of the picture to our modern ideas of optimism. The other question I wish to
consider in these, otherwise disconnected, chapters is, whether St. John's ideal
is still our ideal." (Quoted in Macmillan, George Matheson [New York,
1908] Pp. 285-6)

George Matheson lived, while pastor of St. Bernard's, in a house in St. Bernard's Crescent. As the picture above shows, St. Bernard's Cresent is an elegant example of Georgian architecture, reputedly designed by the painter Sir Henry Raeburn, at the suggestion of Sir David Wilkie. The street looks pretty much the same today, but of course with the ubiquitous parked cars lining the pavements. By the time George Matheson came to live there, the district was looking run-down, and his study looked out onto a slum. The house was, however, in the centre of his parish, and close to his church, and therefore most suitable for him. He shared the house with his sister, who was, in modern language, his 'carer', and who did those things that the blind minister could not. Matheson never married, so that his sister took the role usually played in a congregation by the pastor's wife. The other vital member of Matheson's household was his secretary. He had a succession of young men who worked in this capacity. It was the task of these men to read his letters, and the morning papers to him every morning, and then to assist him in the study by reading to him the books that a minister needs to study.
Four years after coming to St. Bernard's, Dr. Matheson learned to read and to write Braille. Before this, all his reading had been in the form of his secretary or sister reading aloud to him, and all of his books had been dictated. Alone, all he could do was to meditate on what was in his capacious memory. Braille writing was something he found a great deal of delight in, though his secretaries, who had to 'translate' the Braille into English letters, were not so happy, as Matheson did not exactle write genuine Braille, but his own modification of the system. The purpose of his Braille writings were mostly private, but his secretaries had to read the notes that he wrote in the script - and that took time for them to learn. The mechanical typewriter was another aid to writing that he acquired in these later years. Technology is not a bad thing, it too can be a blessing from God. Both Braille and typewriter gave Dr. Matheson a degree of independence in writing that he must have revelled in.
God willing, next time we shall continue with Dr. Matheson.



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