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be put down to his devotion to one of the most notable pulpit traits of Chalmers. “Pho!” he replied to his father, who thought the use of the manuscript would prove his ruin—"Pho! you don't know what reading is; you think it is bowing away with your nose on a paper. You never heard Chalmers read!” When Dr. Chalmers died, amongst other things Anderson said, “I neither say nor think I am possessed of any great excellence, but whatever good is in me is mainly ascribable to the awakening of my powers in these memorable days."
The stumbling blocks that were put in the way of the young preacher's licence, on account of his adherence to the paper, made a deep and lasting impression on his sensitive nature. A keen sense of injustice, and a feeling of bad treatment remained with him for many years. His ecclesiastical cradle had been roughly rocked, but it was probably an element in the making of his resolute manhood. When he left the presbytery meetings he went home to weep over the laughter evoked by his sermons in the presbytery. The action of “the brethren" had an effect it was never meant to have; it delivered him from the cramping prejudices of a provincial sectarianism, it gave him a breadth of view ranging beyond his ecclesiastical confines, it helped to fill him with that kindly charity and magnanimity which so greatly distinguished him, it showed him the weakness of his own Church system, and it was also the root of that corroding sarcasm which he laved on many a hapless opponent in his City Hall speeches.
Anderson had not long entered on his John Street ministry when the organ question came to be dealt with by the denomination. The use of the instrument was condemned by the synod. No matter, he cast himself into the ferment fearless of consequences, and defended the use of the organ with a force and liberality of treatment, which, looking back on the state of feeling at the time, did him the greatest credit. He had to war against deeply-rooted prejudices. He did not win at the first, but he won eventually. Freedom to use a manuscript in preaching, and freedom to call instrumental aid to the service of praise, will seem to those south of the Tweed very poor conquests indeed to make boast of. Those, however, who know the character of the Scottish Dissent of the time will probably come to the conclusion that to a less strenuous spirit both reforms would have been alike impossible. Apart from the work done in the denomination by Dr. Anderson, Professor Eadie, Mr. Gilfillan, Dr. Brown of Paisley, and in his own department by Davidson, "the Scottish probationer,” it is questionable if the United Presbyterian Church could have survived as a living force. The work of these men brought the denomination into touch with a larger and sweeter life, which would otherwise have been repelled by a narrowness and fanaticism not yet wholly extinct.
Dragged into controversy unwillingly, and at the very outset of his public life, the love of debate eventually ruled him like a hardly acquired taste. His bashfulness left him. He grew masterful and pugnacious. The give and the take, the thrust and the parry of public disputation became sweet to him. Conscious of his strength, he loved to call it into exercise. The greater discussions in which he took part were the Voluntary Controversy-a sharp, short fight in which he got, by Chalmers and others, if not “knocked out of time," most certainly pommelled into his corner; the Anti-Slavery Movement, in which, amid the indifferentism of Glasgow, he made his voice to be strongly heard, and “dared to be in the right with two or three;" and the cause of Protestantism, in which he attacked with the utmost fierceness the corruptions of Rome, and poured his bitterest invective on “the man of sin.” In these debates he spent much valuable intellectual power, and published many pamphlets. The work was conscientiously done, but it is to be regretted that so much of his writing should have been of a polemical character. The applause of the Colosseum is but a poor reward if the gladiator dies in the sands of the arena. In the crowds that cheered him in the City Hall, in the congregations that crowded John Street Chapel on Sunday nights, in the second editions of his stinging brochures, Anderson got his momentary reward. But at what a cost. His memory has perished with the shouts that hailed his triumph. His polemics are dead and buried, and all that really lives of him are his kindly humanities, his foibles, his eccentricities.
In these days of regulation drill, when preachers are all becoming as like each other as School Board children, it is refreshing to turn to the preaching of Dr. Anderson, so full of individuality, character, and stirring life: After his early mannerism had so far worn off, he expanded into his true self and became greatly popular. John Street Chapel was empty when he got it. After filling it, he destroyed it and built a more commodious structure. His manner was certainly outré. He was a great snuffer, and carried the powder not in the familiar “mull,” but in his vest pocket. A heated preacher, crying, “My soul cleaveth to the dust,” at the very moment his thumb and finger were ministering copiously to an unlovely habit, had a broadly humorous suggestion, which even the mind of a Relief Seceder, immersed in devout meditation, could hardly fail to observe. Such things are remembered now when better
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things are forgotten, and the more is the pity, for much that Anderson said in the pulpit was well worthy of being carefully treasured up. His printed sermons are all good. When, however, in latter years he prepared them for the press, he polished them too much. We miss the man in them, his turnings, his unpremeditated bursts, his trenchant remarks aside. He was a better platform orator than preacher, and a better preacher than writer. The vulgar thought him “daft," but of daftness in him there was none. What the unappreciative thought derangement was only the operation of a fresh, a buoyant, an original, and fruitful mind, a mind that remained sweet and unconventional to the last.
Dr. Anderson's millenarian views brought him into contact with Edward Irving. These views he kept in control, but he never abandoned. Where they occur they rather freshen than disfigure his pages. He died, Sunday, 15th September, 1873. Before this event occurred he said he did not expect to be long in his grave. And again he said, “My prophetical views have helped in no small degree to give me my present comfort.”
The University of Glasgow gave him his LL.D. The honour is sufficient witness of the worth of his public services, and of learned appreciation of his multifarious labours. Apart from his occasional pamphlets, he did not become an author till late in life. Notwithstanding, his literary remains are both considerable and creditable. “Regeneration " displays rare faculty of methodical treatment and no small power of theological analysis. The “ Filial Honour of God” is also a meritorious performance. These works are not the worse that they show their author the partisan of no particular theological school. Dr. Anderson also left two volumes of discourses in which his views on life and religion are set forth, sometimes with characteristic quaintness, and occasionally with marked originality. The public will never call for any reproduction of these remains of Dr. Anderson, and for the reason most of all that they want the undefinable touch of the practised penman. There is no lack of thought, nor of ideas, but there is a want of imaginative fusion and sublimation. To get a correct view of Dr. Anderson, we must fall back on his personality, his pastoral devotedness, his public activities, his sympathy with popular movements, his hatred of oppression, his zeal in every good and struggling cause, his fearless outspokenness, and the underlying warmth and geniality of his heart. Taking these things all into account, Dr. Anderson must be esteemed an honour to his denomination and the place of his birth,