The History of a Historian - A.R. MacEwen. VI
With the death of his father, Alexander MacEwen faced a time of decision. Should he go forward with the Theology course, or accept, at least for a time, the appointment in Glasgow University as an assistant Professor? The question was one of timing more than anything else. He fully intended to go to the Divinity Hall, was conscious of a calling to the ministry, but was faced with a providence that seemed to be pushing him towards academia instead. Was he calld to be a pastor, or to glorify God as a univerity lecturer? He was unsure which way to take. He hesitated, considered the way forward. Providence is not always easy to interpret, and his father's death seemed to suggest that it would be best to get a paying post, which would also give him an opportunity to learn some more.
So he accepted the post at Glasgow, to teach Latin to Scottish Undergraduates. With a secure short-term future, he was able to accept an invitation of some friends to go climbing in the Tyrol. This was his first opportunity to travel outside of the United Kingdom. Apart from a bout of fever caught in Prague, he enjoyed the trip and came home refreshed, ready to begin teaching in November.
The place of an Assistant in an old Scottish University may be described as doing the work that the Professor would rather not do. It was a difficult and demanding job. He had to teach large classes, and classes that were often rowdy, and mark papers, as well as give tutorials. MacEwen determined that he would allow no monkey-business in class. He had a simple method of dealing with disruptive elements - he threw them out of the classroom! He was also a good teacher. One of his pupils was James Denney, a man who would later be closely associated with him. The classes appreciated him, despite (or perhaps in part because of) the strict discipline that he enforced.
At the same time, he was working on preparing a volume of his father's sermons for the press, a memorial to the work of his father. He was also working on an essay on the Roman satirists for the Arnold Prize at Oxford. The essay was successful, but what was more to him was that the volume of his father's sermons was acceptable. He was a popular teacher, he had won another academic prize, and once again he was faced with the question of his future. Should he continue in this academic life, or enter the theological college?
He turned to the learned and godly minister Dr. John Ker (caricatured) for help. Ker wisely refused to tell MacEwen what he ought to do, instead he told him that he could glorify God in either sphere of service. What he did tell MacEwen was that the young man had to stop halting between two positions and fix on a definite aim in life. The words had their effect, and MacEwen gave in to the call to the ministry, presenting himself as a student for the United Presbyterian Hall.
God willing, next time we shall deal with MacEwen the theology student.
Labels: Alexander Robertson MacEwen