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prayer. After having received licence from the Presbytery of Glasgow, he was appointed assistant to Dr. Candlish, minister of St. George's. He had not been long in Edinburgh when he was sent to Botriphny, to take the place of one of the seven ministers of Strathbogie Presbytery who had refused to obey the dictates of the Assembly. The quiet was delicious, and the rest most enjoyable. He abstained from strife, and taking advantage of the walks by the Isla, and the freedom of the open country all round about, his health was greatly fortified. The main object kept in view by the spending of so much time in the open air was the restoration of his sight, but in this there appears to have been no improvement.
When Robert Murray M'Cheyne died in the beginning of 1843, the choice of the congregation fell on Islay Burns. He was ordained in the June of that year, having cast in his lot with the Free Church. At first he tried to imitate the manner of his predecessor, but he was not long in seeing his mistake. Every preacher should vindicate his own individuality. It is revolting to see a man sinking his personality in that of another, and after some experience of this sort, Islay Burns found it so. The two ministers were indeed very differentthe work of the one was conversion, the other that of edification—the one startled the soul out of its sleep, the other fed it when it was awake. Both duties were of importance, and comparisons are out of place. It may be said, however, that M'Cheyne, if the less powerful, had by far the most interesting personality. The people felt him nearer them, and all around him there was an atmosphere of sanctity. In the circumstances it is very easy to understand how Islay Burns had a very difficult position to fill and how members would be led
to go elsewhere, seeking, if they could find perchance, that kind of ministry which they appreciated more. But he had another element to contend with. The position of St. Peter's Church is a mystery. The Free Church party did not secede, they remained in the church, and in their hands they have been able to retain it. St. Peter's presented consequently in 1843 a most unique spectacle. The Churchmen had to break away from the Seceders; they had to leave St. Peter's and seek those churches in the town that still remained in connection with the National Church. In the midst of these circumstances the young minister felt himself like a rower rowing against the tide. He was pulling hard, but he was being borne downward, the current proving too strong for him. At the end of two years he found his ministry had been one of uninterrupted anxiety, incessant toil, and declining success.
But after all deductions had been made a large congregation still gathered in St. Peter's Church. There can be no doubt his blindness was a great hindrance to the success of his ministry. The congregation felt as if he was speaking to people in general rather than to them in particular. And then he had the feeling that much that he said was said in only too good taste. His mind was tentative. His literary sense was very acute. In his composition there was nothing florid, nothing ornamental, nothing meretricious. It was marked by a chaste simplicity, a truth to nature, and a literary refinement which the people were not sufficiently educated to appreciate. He thought it exceedingly curious that all the pieces and sections and paragraphs which his taste was inclined to reject invariably proved the most telling and popular. This is somewhat unaccountable, for although the composition of M'Cheyne is very different from that of Burns, the sermons of the former, so much appreciated in St. Peter's, are very far from defective on the score of literary taste. If the sermons of Burns had not the evangelical warmth of M'Cheyne's, they had still a certain fulness, richness, and depth which his lacked. All his sermons and lectures on the life and character of our Lord are of marked power and insight. He travelled over large tracks of thought, but he was never so effective, never so unanswerable in argument, as when he came to deal with matters pertaining to the divinity of Christ. He took a liberal and just view of the proprieties of public worship. He was in favour of all things being done decently and in order; and he held that where an evangelical fervour prevailed in the ministry, an ornate service would rather be helpful than otherwise to the spiritual advancement of the congregation. His views on these matters he expounded openly in the press, and it required a certain degree of boldness for a Free Churchman to state them then which it does not require now. His papers on this and kindred subjects appeared in the “British and Foreign Evangelical Review," and they must have had a wholesome influence on his own denomination, as they tended to direct attention to larger tides of spiritual life and movement than those which rose and fell within the narrower boundaries of the Free Church. In the pages of the "Sunday Magazine” he wrote his “Pictures of Church History,” the aim of which was to guide popular feeling in a similar direction, and to show the blunder which the sectarian made who circumscribed his interest by the circle of history which recorded the progress of his own little communion, and cut off his spiritual life from the great life of the Church Catholic.
able to Islay Burns. They brought him into notice. People wondered at them coming from a man who occupied the pulpit of M'Cheyne. They were a surprise to that class who can never be got frankly to allow that evangelical warmth and historical and literary power can ever be found united in the same individual. The fact of Islay Burns being amongst the critics and philosophers could not now, however, be disputed, and when the chair of Church History was left vacant by the death of Dr. Cunningham in 1861, it seemed to a large number that he was the best man the Church had for the post. Various names were mentioned, and eventually it was found that the struggle would lie between him and Mr. (now Dr.) Rainy. The latter had the support of Dr. Candlish and Dr. Buchanan, and his candidature was pushed with all the force which these gentlemen were capable of exerting. When the appointment came to be made, 230 votes were given for Rainy, and 202 votes for Burns. The office was one which Islay Burns was specially qualified to fill, and no doubt the defeat was hard enough to bear. In the circumstances, he went back to Dundee and consoled himself with the production and publication of “The Pastor of Kilsyth.” To attempt to weave into an interesting narrative so uneventful a life as that which his father had lived was no ordinary task. The difficulties of making a readable book out of the slender materials were obvious. Constrained by filial devotedness, Islay Burns went on, however, with his task, and brought it to a successful termination. It is easy to say he might have done it better, the wonder is that he could do it at all. It is a prose idyl, and is written from first to last with a fine sympathy and literary grace. We feel that there are little actions and deeds that often touch us far more deeply, come closer to the fountains of tears and sorrows, than the achievements of the heroic. He calls into view the sublimities lodged in the quietest lives. He opens up a fresh and secluded pastoral tract, pervaded by a spiritual calmness and sunshine, in the midst of which his father passes his days in patriarchal tranquillity. The memoir of the missionary is more ambitious but less successful. There is wanting in it a certain lovingness and nameless grace which is everywhere prevalent in “ the Pastor.” But that being said, it is indeed a worthy record of a worthy life.
These labours brought Islay Burns the degree of D.D. from the University of Aberdeen, and when a vacancy came to be filled up in Glasgow Free Church College, it was found that his claims were such as could no longer be passed over. In coming forward as a candidate for the Chair of Apologetics and Systematic Theology, he encountered that kind of opposition which, to a man of refinement and culture, is worst to bear, the opposition of the malevolent and mean-spirited, the opposition of men who were cyphers and tried to make themselves integers by opposing him. After all was done he received the appointment by the substantial majority of 292 to 215 voices. The people of Dundee had now come to know Dr. Burns better than they did at first, and when they sent him on his way it was with substantial evidence of their appreciation, and hearts deeply touched at parting with one they had grown so much to love. The £800 which he received was subscribed, for the most part, by those unconnected with St. Peter's, and the sorrow at parting with him was shared by the whole town.
Dr. Burns came with pleasure to Glasgow, for Glasgow was not far from Kilsyth, and it was to the old parish, the old manse, the old boyish haunts by Kelvin and