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MEMOIR OF DR. COLDSTREAM,
. OF EDINBURGH :
BY THE REV. JOSEPH WATSON. DR. COLDSTREAM was born at Crieff, in Scotland ; and educated in Edinburgh for the medical profession. At the early age of twenty-one years he had, confided to him, the sole medical care of the Ist regiment of Horse-Guards ; but he' afterwards entered, as Surgeon, into the 26th regiment of Foot,-in which he continued until he retired from the army. On his retirement, he resided chiefly in Glasgow and Edinburgh ; and in the latter place he finished his earthly course, on Jan. 28th, 1841.
To delineate some subjects is very difficult, inasmuch as they present nothing boldly prominent or distinctive. But, although in the present instance it is not intended to portray a faultless man; it may be averred that the character of the departed was open as the day, if not unsullied as the pure unmingled light. Ample means of judging, both in private intercourse, and in the observance of his public acts, led to the conclusion that what might be considered faulty in Dr. Coldstream inclined to the side of virtue, and of disinterested benevolence.
The possession of a sincere and elevated piety is compatible with imperfections, arising from the infirmities of our nature. It is the privilege of the Christian to be now saved from the guilt, and power, and pollution of sin ; yet he cannot expect a salvation that frees him from error in judgment, any more than he can hope to be delivered from toil, and temptation, and bodily pain. And, from an error in judgment, he may become defective in practice.
It is of the greatest importance to call every thing by its proper name. Were this done, a great deal of misunderstanding would be prevented. Many there are who speak of the infirmities of the Christian as positive sins ; and hence, consistently with such views, maintain the impossibility of being saved from all sin in this life. But these imperfections are not sins, in the proper sense; and to call them such is, at the least, to employ a dangerous ambiguity. That Dr. Coldstream had infirmities, and probably some which were peculiarly his own, is not denied. Every man has his infirmities ; each
VOL. VI.- FOURTH SERIES.
differing from the other. But for spirituality of mind, and an entire devotedness to God, few, perhaps none who have moved in similar circumstances of life, have excelled him. Such was the integrity by which he was governed, that, so long as he had just ground to conclude that any person was acting inconsistently, no relationship, no former friendship, could induce him to surrender principle in order to spare the offender. This unbending uprightness was seen more especially in matters affecting the interests of the church of God. Examples might be given, in which stern Christian principle remarkably blended with the “charity” which “thinketh no evil,” and which “hopeth all things.” In him appeared a combination of firmness and suavity; a jealous regard for the glory of God and the honour of His cause, and a respectful affection for the Ministers of the Gospel ;—a union of properties but too seldom found in these days of large profession, but of ungirt latitudinarianism.
The religion of some is merely educational, or formal. They are just what they were made in the nursery and the school; by a regular attendance on sacred ordinances, and a conformity to the decencies of society. Not so with Dr. Coldstream. Without being able to fix upon the particular period, or the human instrumentality,—and yet without undervaluing the ordinary means of grace, to which he paid the most scrupulous attention,-he was wont to attribute bis religious impressions, in the most absolute sense, to the direct operations of the Holy Spirit. But he never abused this memorable fact, by considering himself singled out from others, as an object of special favour, on the ground either of an unconditional pre-election on the part of God, or of anything good in himself. He ever regarded himself as a hell-deserving sinner, saved by grace through faith alone.
At one period of his life, before his conversion, he was very deeply affected with a sense of his ingratitude to God, by whom he had been preserved amid many dangers of voyage and travel, as well as in the battle-field. He was led to think, in particular, of God's goodness towards him in the severe engagement at Corunna, during which Sir John Moore was mortally wounded, and the life of every man was in imminent peril. At the moment that Sir John received his mortal wound, Dr. Coldstream was attending upon an officer who had just lost an arm by a shot; but, as soon as the case of Sir John was known, the officer exclaimed, “ Doctor, never mind me: go and attend to Sir John.” The Doctor instantly ran to the scene of universal interest, not merely at the request of the noble-minded officer who could forget himself in the wants of his General, but at the instance of imperative duty; and he attended to Sir John as he lay stretched upon the pallet of death.
From the period above-mentioned, when Dr. Coldstream was so powerfully impressed with a sense of ingratitude to God, his convictions gradually deepened ; and he became so unhappy that (to use his own expressive language) he felt himself “ alike unfit to live, and afraid to die.” He was constrained to cry out, “ wretched man that I am !” While in this state of mind, he was united in marriage
to a young lady of highly respectable connexions in Haddington; but, although he had every temporal good, and everything to contribute to his domestic bliss, he was not happy. He laboured to hide the cause of his distress from his amiable and anxious consort; but the anguish itself he could not conceal. Soon after this, however, without any special means of instruction, beyond the perusal of the Word of God, with his own reflections upon it, and supplications for mercy, he saw the simple method of justification by faith in the world's atonement, and obtained peace and holy joy. And often did he profess his belief that he would have obtained this blessing much sooner, had he been taken by the hand and rightly instructed. The sense of God's paternal love he was enabled to retain, even to the close of life.
When he first obtained a sense of the Divine favour, he thought himself the happiest man in the world. But, so far as earthly good is concerned, how soon is the sunshine intercepted and obscured by dark and lowering clouds! Such was the case with Dr. Coldstream. In the midst of his terrestrial paradise the blight of death came, and he was left to mourn the loss of her who had “ done him good and not evil.” To one capable of cherishing the most refined sympathies of our nature, and these deepened and hallowed by a recent spiritual change, this bereavement was all but insupportable.
Having passed through this severe trial, and remained a short time in this country, he again joined his regiment, which was then stationed at Gibraltar. When he reached that place, he found himself deprived of that religious society which he had enjoyed in his own land; and he greatly felt the need of Christian intercourse. He was at length introduced to the Rev. Thomas Davis, the Wesleyan Missionary ; by whom he was most affectionately received. The following account of this matter deserves to be recorded :
Some of the officers, having been in England on leave of absence, returned to Gibraltar in the same ship with Mr. Davis. The day after they disembarked they were reporting at the mess-table, with great merriment, what “a strange fish” they had had on board with them from England, --a gentleman who did nothing but preach and pray, and reprove them, in spite of all their efforts to silence him. The Doctor listened attentively, and then inquired if there were any possibility of finding him out. They immediately directed him to the Mission-House, to which Mr. Davis had invited them all. The Doctor set off at once, and found Mr. Davis, to whom he related his experience; adding the remark, that the Lord had surely done for him what He had not done for any other human being. The truth was, that he had given the recital to several of his professing Christian friends before be left Scotland, but had met with no one who could enter fully into his feelings. Mr. Davis informed him that such was the common privilege of the children of God; and that, if he would accompany him to a class-meeting that evening, he would hear several testimonies of the like kind. Dr. Coldstream consented, and was delighted with the simple narrations which were given ; and, finding them to agree substantially with his own experience, he resolved, before leaving that meeting for Christian fellowship, that this people should be his people, and their God his God. This devout resolution he maintained, with the strictest integrity, to the day of his death.
Mr. Davis, removing from Gibraltar in 1819, was succeeded by the Rev. Owen Rees ; under whose ministry Dr. Coldstream greatly profited. Of the Society there, he was not an inactive member. He took a deep interest in everything that tended to promote its stability and prosperity; and perhaps to his fidelity and firmness, in a certain crisis of affairs, may be attributed the defeat of a somewhat influential faction. During his sojourn at Gibraltar Captain Tripp was induced, through his persuasion, to attend the Wesleyan ministry at that place. This excellent man subsequently became most useful and exemplary. One of Dr. Coldstream's remarks may be introduced here, as being highly characteristic. It appeared that the Captain had some serious concern for his salvation ; but he had his scruples about attending the Wesleyan chapel, because he would then be called a Methodist. To this his faithful friend replied,—“I tell you, Captain, you are shunning the cross : and there is no other way of proceeding in this matter, but to take it up at once, and follow the Saviour.” The Captain saw that he had been shunning the cross, and at once resolved to follow the Saviour. In regard to the human instrumentality, this remark may be considered as turning the scale.
All who have within reach the Wesleyan Magazine for 1823, will do well to peruse the beautiful memoir of that excellent young officer. A passage or two, connected with the subject of the present narrative, may be introduced :
“ In the spring of the year 1817, Captain Tripp was providentially brought into the way of hearing the truth at Gibraltar. A gentleman, well known in the 26th regiment as a decidedly pious character, invited him, one Sunday morning, to accompany him to the Methodist chapel. He was much surprised, and replied, “What will they think of us? However, I have no great objection to go for once.' Of this circumstance, and of his conversion to God, in which it happily terminated, Captain Tripp gives the following interesting narrative:
"On that Sunday, God in His mercy visited my soul. When I saw the Minister, and heard him preach, the word came with power to my heart. I could with difficulty contain myself; and thought that all in the chapel were looking at me. Such, however, were the impressions made on my mind, that I was fully convinced of the necessity of a change of heart, and that the way of the cross was the only way to enjoy real happiness in this life, and to insure eternal felicity. After service, the subjects of our conversation were the sermon we had heard, the impressive manner of the Preacher, the simplicity of his doctrine, and the importance of the truths delivered ; and we came to this conclusion, that he alone is the happy man who fears God and keeps His commandments. On the following Sunday, * * * invited me to go with him again. I replied, that if I went I should be called a Methodist,-a name to which much contempt was attached ; and, as my family were all members of the Established Church, I did not think it proper to attend the Methodist chapel. Thus I stifled conviction, and hardened my heart against the Lord. However, my friend soon after again requested me to go with him to the chapel. I at last consented, and went; and with such power did the word of God come to my soul, that I then resolved that this people should be my people, ignominious as they were considered by the circle of my friends and acquaintance, and that their God should be my God.'
“In the account given by Captain Tripp of the means which led to his conversion, we see an instance of the blessed results which may arise from an affectionate concern for the eternal salvation of our friends. A kind and persevering solicitation to attend a ministry, by which the truth as it is in Jesus was faithfully preached, at last prevailed; and *** had the unspeakable pleasure of beholding his friend, not a nominal professor, but a brother in Christ, walking in all the commandments of the Lord blameless. O that every disciple of our Lord may be encouraged to 'go and do likewise !""
The “gentleman ” referred to, as being so “well known in the 26th regiment as a decidedly pious character," is the subject of this memoir. It is worthy of permanent record, that the Captain and the Doctor became at once collectors for the Missionary Society, going about from house to house; and that they took a very prominent part in the formation of an Auxiliary Methodist Missionary Society on the Rock of Gibraltar.
According to his own statement, the reasons which induced Dr. Coldstream to connect himself with the Wesleyan Society were,—the accordance of its doctrines and general economy with his own views, although he had been brought up in the Established Church of Scotland; and the great benefit which he believed he should derive from the Christian fellowship observed in this community. His activity in the cause of God has seldom, if ever, been surpassed in private life. It had long been his practice to exhort out of doors, every Sunday morning at eight o'clock, near the Tron Church, Edinburgh ; and, in the afternoon, about half-past three o'clock, in the Grass-market. On Thursday evening, at seven, he generally gave an address in the House of Refuge. On Friday evening he exhorted out of doors in Windmill-street; and on Saturday afternoon, at three, at the top of Adam-street, near his own house. Having full permission from the authorities, he regularly visited the Jail, and conversed on spiritual subjects with the prisoners; besides attending to his duties as the Leader of two classes, and as an unwearied visiter of the sick of every denomination. The detail of the last five days of his life, while it exhibits a fair specimen of his ordinary movements, will show how he was found employed when his Master called him to his eternal reward.
Sunday, January 24th, 1841.-He attended the prayer-meeting at seven o'clock in the morning in Nicolson-square chapel. Exhorted near the Tron Church at eight o'clock. Met his class, after the fore