I HAVE undertaken with much hesitation to write a short sketch of my brother's life, as an introduction to his Gifford Lectures. In doing so, I have to remember that he was a man of much reserve, which even after his death I am bound to respect; and that for a long time my relations with him were so close and intimate, that it is probably impossible for me to see him as others saw him. Also his life was uneventful, and the materials in the way of correspondence which are at my disposal are not large.
John Caird was born at Greenock, on the Clyde, on the 15th December, 1820. He was the eldest of seven brothers, one of whom died in infancy, and the others still survive. His father was John Caird, partner and manager of the firm of Messrs. Caird & Co., engineers. He was educated in the schools of Greenock, and, in particular, he received his first classical training from Dr. Brown, a teacher of the old school, a man of much vigour and individuality, full of enthusiasm for the Classics, and of contempt for any training not based upon them, and a profound believer in the power of the “taws.” Of one of his pupils who had considerable success in life, Dr. Brown is recorded to have said, “That's because I thrashed him well.” In spite of the severity of his discipline, Brown's half-conscious humour, the energy he threw into his profession, and the lively interest he took in those whom he had taught, awakened strong feelings of regard in many of his pupils.
At the age of fifteen, John Caird was withdrawn from school to enter his father's office, and in the next eighteen months he was passed through several departments of the engineering works, in order that he might have a practical acquaintance with all the details of the business. At the expense of some wounds and bruises, he acquired some facility in working with mechanical tools, and at the same time he also gained some knowledge of mechanical drawing. But he soon became conscious of the need for further education, and I have found a letter of his, written in 1837, in which he urges his father to send him for a year to the University of Glasgow to pursue mathematical and other studies, and promises that if his request is granted he will endeavour to the utmost to profit by the opportunity. Having received his father's consent, in Session 1837-8 he attended the Mathematical and Logical classes in the University, and took prizes in both. His main object at this time was simply to qualify himself to be a better manager of an engineering business, and in this he was so successful that his father is recorded to have said that “John was worth any two of his assistants.” During the year spent at the University, however, other interests had begun to take hold of his mind, and as I gather from his correspondence with an intimate friend, Mr. Allan Park Paton, of Greenock, he devoted some part of his time to reading and writing poetry. Some specimens of his verses are preserved, which have the usual merits and defects of such youthful effusions.
In 1838, he returned to work in the foundry; but the death of his father in September of the same year, and shortly after of his uncle, James Caird, who was at the head of a firm of chain-makers and smiths, led to the termination of his connection with the engineering business. During the year 1839, indeed, he superintended the chain-making works, but towards the end of it circumstances rendered it necessary for this business to be disposed of; and for a short time he was in doubt as to his future career. The experience which he had acquired, and the credit he had gained for energy and ability, led to his being offered the post of a manager in a mill in Greenock; but the growing interest in academic studies which had been awakened in him during the year at College made him reluctant to follow such a career. And certain early religious impressions, which were deepened by the deaths of his father and uncle, led him to look to the Church as the profession which he would prefer to all others. It may be mentioned also that he had already shown some indications of that power of public speaking which was his most prominent gift. As soon, therefore, as it became clear that he possessed sufficient pecuniary means to enable him to do so, he resolved to pursue his studies at the University. He had allowed his Classics to become somewhat rusty, and had consequently some hard work in preparing himself for the University classes; but the interval between school and the University was not lost. He had, I think, gained from his business training something of that practical directness of intellect, and that reverence for scientific truth, which were among his most prominent characteristics.
For the next five years, from 1840 till 1845, he threw his whole energy into study, and his career at the University was exceptionally brilliant. He took several University prizes, among others, one for poetical composition, and one for an essay on Secondary Punishments, on which he spent much pains, even visiting many prisons in order to verify his facts. He stood first in the classes of Moral and Natural Philosophy, and in all the Divinity and Ecclesiastical History classes; and though he had not much turn for languages, he also distinguished himself in Latin and Hebrew. He formed intimate and lasting friendships with a few other students, who like himself were destined for the Church, among whom I may mention especially Duncan Weir, afterwards Professor of Hebrew in the University of Glasgow; Archibald Watson, afterwards minister of East Parish Church of Dundee; Robert Graham, afterwards minister of Kilbarchan; and John Paisley, afterwards minister of the Parish of Garelochhead, all of whom died before him. But during these years he seems generally to have been in a somewhat depressed state of mind, feeling much his loneliness at College, and always eager at every opportunity to escape from it to his home in Greenock, or to have one of his younger brothers to visit him. In a letter to a friend with whom he corresponded much during these years (Mr. James Williamson, of Greenock), he speaks repeatedly of “the heart-and home-sickness, the inevitable depression and anxiety which have been ever the attendants of my student life.” “Believe me, my dear friend,” he says on one occasion, “if I do meet with success in after life, it is dearly purchased by the racking and feverish anxieties of a student's life, by its often sad forebodings of the future, and by its many hours of loneliness and labour.” This depression had little or nothing to do with any intellectual doubts or difficulties, of which I cannot find any trace. He had been brought up in a circle into which any idea of scepticism as to the doctrines of the Christian faith had hardly entered; and his philosophical studies, which were at that time mainly in writers like Reid and Stewart, while they exercised his powers, were not such as to affect his intellectual or moral life very deeply. When he passed into the Divinity Hall the noise of the “Non-Intrusion” controversy, which was then in the air, while it disturbed the student's intellectual peace, rather distracted him from deeper questionings as to theological subjects. So far as I can gather from the imperfect records that remain, my brother came from the University with his faith in the general body of what is called evangelical doctrine quite undisturbed. But in his earliest preaching he showed a tendency to dwell almost entirely on what he then regarded as the essentials of religion, on those practical aspects of it which are the most useful and effective themes of the pulpit, and to pay less attention to questions of doctrine. This tendency, even from the earliest times of his ministry, awakened a certain suspicion as to his ‘soundness,’ which was not founded upon anything positive, but only on what was described by some people as a ‘want,’ i.e. a want of specific dogmatic statements in relation to articles of the Calvinistic system, which he did not disbelieve, but in which he saw no special practical bearing. And, indeed, it was always a characteristic of his preaching to dwell on the ethical meaning of Christianity as all-important, and everything else as subsidiary. But in later times, when the comparative quiet of a rural parish enabled him to make deeper studies in philosophy and theology, he came to attach more and more importance to the system of doctrine as embodying the Christian view of man, and his relation to God.
In 1845, after the conclusion of his studies in Divinity as well as in Arts, he took the Degree of M.A., and was almost immediately ordained as minister of the parish of Newton-on-Ayr. In that parish he remained only for 18 months, when he accepted a call to Lady Yester's Church in Edinburgh, a charge which he held until near the end of the year 1849. During this time his power as a speaker had become known throughout Scotland, and drew crowds to hear him, not only in his own church but wherever he preached. His style was less chastened, and his thoughts less weighty than they afterwards became; but he spoke with an earnestness and vehemence, with a flow of utterance, and a vividness of illustration, which carried his hearers by storm. No one could be less of a mere actor, but when he was deeply interested in any subject it was natural to him to give to his thoughts a kind of dramatic expression. When he had time, he wrote his discourses carefully and committed them to memory, but often in Edinburgh the pressure of parish work rendered this impossible, and he was able only to write down a few notes. And sometimes when this was the case, he spoke with more force and effect than when he had carefully prepared. Gifted with a voice of great compass and flexibility, which seemed to adapt itself to the expression of every feeling, never hesitating for a word, and himself completely lost in the idea he was expressing, he held his audience in his grasp. Sometimes, indeed, in the vehement torrent of speech, he lost control of his utterance, as he would not have done at a later period, and his voice rose too high—but those who heard him were generally too much moved to be critical.
What he preached was simply, as I have indicated, the Christian faith as he had received it, in its most practical aspect. If in the form in which he presented it there was a shade of difference from what was common at the time, it lay in the fact that he dwelt less upon doctrines about Christ, and more upon the idea of identification with him as a living person; less upon atonement by his death, and more and more upon unity with him. If there were some even at that time who accused my brother of ‘not preaching Christ,’ the charge was the exact reverse of the truth. It might rather be said that he never preached anything else, and that the idea of the sympathetic realization of Christ's life and death, and of Christ's union with man, was the one theme upon which all his preaching turned. “I am never weary,” he writes to a friend at this period, “of recurring to the thought of the personal nearness, the mysterious yet most familiar sympathy, the profound and unerring wisdom, the mingled majesty and tenderness of that divine yet gentlest of Consolers. If Christianity had no more than this, this one so beautiful, so real and wonderfully suitable provision for the deepest yearnings of the heart would be to me proof sufficient of its divine origin. I have all the certainty of moral evidence that this is the true specific for all the unrest and manifold distractions of man's inner life,… ‘the peace of God that passeth all understanding, keeping our heart and mind through Christ Jesus.’”
In a sense, this predominance of the idea of Christ never ceased to be characteristic of his preaching; but in later days he was more occupied with the idea of the unity of the divine and the human, as he conceived it to be manifested in Christ, and with the further results of this idea in the moral and intellectual life of man. But at this time it was not Christianity as a system of thought, or as a principle for the explanation of human life and experience, that took the most prominent place in his mind, but simply the image of Jesus Christ as a Divine Being, who had given Himself to man that man might give himself to God.
I have been favoured with the following account of his ministry in Edinburgh, by the Rev. Dr. Macmillan, of Greenock, who was at that period a student in the University there.
The three years of Dr. Caird's ministry in Edinburgh were among the most fruitful of his whole life. He himself, I have reason to believe, loved to look back upon that period as a time of highly quickened intellectual and spiritual life. Owing to the great reputation he had acquired by his faithful performance of pastoral duty, and by his remarkable eloquence in the pulpit in his previous charge of Newton-on-Ayr, the Town Council of the Metropolis unanimously elected him to be the minister of Lady Yester's Church in the south side of the city. At this period he was only twenty-six years of age, and his youthful appearance added greatly to the profound impression which his oratorical gifts produced. He seemed to have dispensed with the slow, gradual training by which other members of his profession reach maturity, and to have all at once acquired the full mastery of his remarkable powers. The church to which he was appointed, though territorially important, was not one of the principal or fashionable charges of the city. In consequence of the great growth of Edinburgh in recent years Lady Yester's Church has become obscured by new streets and buildings; but even in those days it did not occupy a prominent position, or obtrude itself upon the notice of the passers-by. It had to be sought out with some diligence in its quiet corner. There were no special architectural features to distinguish it, having been built in the plain useful style which at that time characterized nearly all the Scottish churches. The interior was somewhat dark and dingy, and the building itself altogether was destitute of any special attraction for the vagrant worshipper. A good steady-going congregation attended regularly the ordinary services of the church up to the time of the vacancy.
But when the new preacher came, the place seemed all at once to have been changed by magic. The very external appearance of the church seemed to brighten with a sunshine of its own. Instead of being hidden in a secret nook, Lady Yester's Church became at once the most prominent place in Edinburgh. Long before the hour of worship on Sunday morning streams of people might be seen enlivening the quiet streets leading to it; and when the service began, not an inch of standing room could be found within the crowded building. The deep dark galleries and sombre pews were lit up with a sea of faces; and every eye was fixed upon the massive pulpit in eager expectancy. A profound silence fell upon the multitude when Mr. Caird appeared. Mounting the stairs with slow and dignified step, robed in the usual black gown and bands, he sat down for a few minutes in the pulpit. Then rising he reverently began the service by giving out a portion of a Psalm to be sung by the congregation, reading the whole of it in quiet and measured tones. His eager, youthful face seemed shaded with thought; and his long black hair, brushed back from his forehead, lent a striking prophetic look to it. After a comprehensive prayer, remarkable for its beauty and felicity of expression and fervour of manner, he read a chapter from the Old and New Testament with much dramatic force, bringing out the meaning in a way quite unusual at the time, and fitted to arrest the most careless attention. When he announced his text, a great gleam of brightening countenances, as if a sudden sunbeam had entered the church, ran electrically throughout the crowd, and every one settled down into a profound listening attitude. Without manuscript or note before him, the preacher began by laying out his subject in a manner so distinct and methodical that every one present could grasp it as a whole; and then proceeded to unfold and illustrate it with wonderful freshness and power. Carefully composed and committed to memory as was his theme, he spoke as if with pure spontaneity the thoughts that arose within him at the moment. Profoundly impressed himself, his words rang out strong and fervent, emphasized by the most appropriate gestures. Standing back from the pulpit board, brushing his long hair from his forehead, his eye kindling with a dusky yet piercing light, “orb within orb,” he poured forth a succession of impassioned sentences which fairly carried you away. There was no pretence, no studied unnatural effect, but the fire and rapture of native eloquence.
Now and then there was an unexpectedness in some allusion or illustration which was very effective; but his periods were usually connected together, alike by the links of logical sequence and by the unity of feeling and of philosophic and poetic growth. Whatever of dimness had attached to one's ideas of Scripture was dissipated as mist by sunlight, and all was clearly and definitely evolved from one root or central thought. Occasionally he used a striking metaphor which shone in his subject like a stained-glass window; and often a short pithy sentence full of simple meaning, with an electric touch, went straight to the heart, and opened up a whole long vista of thought and feeling. With a long and highly-wrought peroration, in which he seemed to exhaust all his oratorical powers, he brought his discourse to a conclusion; and the loud sob of the audience indicated how profoundly they had been thrilled and strained in the course of its delivery. His sermons, which reached from the first, and uniformly maintained, a high level—far above the average—were more religious than theological, more practical than devotional. They were distinguished for their philosophic breadth, and their intense sympathy with all the struggles and sorrows and sins of humanity. They ranged over a wide and varied field of subjects. Starting from the familiar evangelical truths, they touched all the experiences of ordinary life, and brought the gospel into harmonious relation with all that is beautiful in art, and ennobling in philosophy and history.
Situated not far from the University, in a quarter of the town affected by the students connected with theology, art, and medicine, Lady Yester's Church soon attracted this class of hearers, who showed by the regularity of their attendance, and the sacrifices which they made to be present, how greatly they valued the privilege. During the three years of Mr. Caird's incumbency, the Edinburgh students had very exceptional advantages. The Scottish Metropolis at that time was indeed entitled to be called “The Modern Athens.” Never before or since has there been such a galaxy of great men among the professors of the University; men of European reputation, who have left their enduring mark upon our literature, philosophy, and science. Sir William Hamilton, Christopher North, Aytoun, James Forbes, Syme, Christison, Simpson, Gregory, Bennett, all shed lustre upon this one seat of learning at the same time; and the students, stimulated by the teaching of such professors, and by the new ideas of science and philosophy which were beginning to dawn upon Scottish minds, heralding the mighty revolutions in thought which belonged to the age later on of Darwin, were in the most favourable mood to be benefited by such preaching as Mr. Caird supplied. The religious mind, too, was quickened by the throes of the Disruption which had scarcely yet passed away, and the ecclesiastical atmosphere in Edinburgh was surcharged with potent elements that were well fitted to quicken the spirit and stir up enthusiasm. Mr. Caird, who never identified himself with religious controversy, but lived in a calm region of his own, came into this vortex of stimulated life and energy, and by his marvellous preaching imparted to it a healing and ennobling influence. On the Sabbath day he directed the quickened thought of the students and his other hearers into the highest channels, and showed to those who were being taught the wonderful generalizations of science and philosophy, that God was the highest generalization—that Jesus Christ and Him crucified was the keystone of the arch of human knowledge, in whom all things consist or hang together.
After nearly three years of this life, my brother, who had been working at the utmost tension from the time of his father's death, began to feel that the strain of managing a large parish, making congregational visits, and at the same time preaching every Sunday to crowded audiences, was more than his strength could bear. And after some hesitation, he accepted, towards the end of 1849, the charge of the parish of Errol, in Perthshire. There he remained for the following eight years, living for the most part a very retired life, doing the work of his parish with much energy, but enjoying, one might say, for the first time in his life, the opportunity for independent reading and reflection. The comparative leisure of a rural living gave him opportunity to undertake many studies in literature and philosophy in which he felt himself to be deficient, and to think out many questions which had arisen upon his mind in the course of his work, but which he had not hitherto been able to consider.
During his ministry at Errol, the quiet of his life was only broken in upon by two events. One was the opening of a Girls' School of Industry, on the building, furnishing, and other equipment of which he spent much time and pains between 1853 and 1856. His motives in making the effort to establish this school are very well explained in the following letter to an intimate friend who had been a member of his church in Edinburgh (dated March 14, 1854):
“The school is for the industrial training of girls. Young girls in this parish and neighbourhood, as soon as they can earn a penny, are set to work at handloom weaving or coarse field labour. There is no existing means of female education apart from the common parish school. The result is, that girls grow up utterly ignorant of the commonest sorts of household work, are unfit for domestic service, even of the rudest kind, still more unfit to manage their own houses when they marry. They have no habits of personal neatness, no taste for order, cleanliness, domestic comfort; they never aspire to anything beyond the mere eking out of their coarse, scanty, comfortless life, and their only pleasures are sensual indulgence and scandal. What a life! I declare that, with every effort to the contrary, I seldom return from a day's visiting in our village without feeling my moral tone lowered by breathing in such an atmosphere. What must it be, without education, or elevating influences of any sort, to have to breathe in it continually? I am determined to do something to help them. And so this school is to be got up as a probable means of elevating socially one most important class, the girls of the labouring poor. It is to be built with some attention to taste and beauty in the structure and grounds, that even these external influences may second the more direct teaching and training within doors. In the establishment will be given, besides the usual branches, instruction in sewing, knitting, cooking, laundry work, dress-making, etc. In short, we shall do our best to open up higher and less demoralizing sorts of industry for the girls of the poor, qualifying some to become good domestic servants, some to be school mistresses, and many to be better managers of their own homes, so as to introduce some approach to neatness, taste, and comfort among our sordid, degraded, Scottish poor.”
The funds for this school were mainly raised by my brother himself, partly by subscription, partly by appealing to congregations in Edinburgh and Glasgow, and other towns in Scotland, and partly by a bazaar in Errol. I have myself an indistinct remembrance of hearing him plead for this object, with more than his usual force and eloquence, in a church in Glasgow. He was soon able to meet the necessary expenses, and had the pleasure of seeing the school opened, and filled with scholars early in 1856. In March of that year, he wrote to the same friend as follows: “As to the school, I know you will rejoice with me to learn that it has succeeded beyond my most sanguine expectations. We opened only four weeks ago, and already our numbers are about 100, quite as many as the school can comfortably hold. What is better, our operations are giving universal satisfaction among the parents and parishioners in general, and every dissentient voice is silenced. The schoolroom is a very beautiful one, and when our playground is dressed up and the arrangements completed, I think our school machinery will be such as few parishes can boast of. I attribute our success mainly to our having been most fortunate in the selection of a teacher, a most sensible, quiet, firm, self-possessed sort of person, who manages to combine great strictness of discipline with a rare power of attracting the children to her, and so making them work out her plans, not out of constraint, but out of regard to her wishes. The cooking and sewing operations are not yet begun, but most of the children come from a considerable distance, and in a week or two we will be prepared to dine about fifty of them (with a plate of soup and a bit of bread, for a penny) in our soup kitchen. Detachments of the elder girls are to take the management of the culinary department in succession, keeping the kitchen tidy, preparing and cooking the soup, arranging the table, and attending to the younger girls at table. You have no idea how manifest an improvement is already beginning to show itself in the bearing and demeanour of the children. Moreover, our teacher sings very nicely, and we are already training the children to help us on Sunday in church…The children have all donned a somewhat quaint-looking apron, which gives the school, with its rows of tidy forms and smiling faces, a very orderly and pleasing aspect. Pray forgive me for running on in this garrulous way, but I can scarcely help myself, for my head is quite full of it; and you have no idea what an additional chance this new spoke in my parish wheel has given to my work. Much of the success is, I daresay, to be attributed to novelty; still the school supplies so obvious and manifest a want that I have little doubt as to its ultimate and permanent success.”
The school continued to be a great interest to my brother as long as he was in Errol, and, as I hear from the present minister of the parish, is to this day, “in a most flourishing condition, and has been a very great blessing to the locality.”
The other event to which reference has been made, is that in 1855 he was invited to preach before the Queen at Balmoral, and that Her Majesty was pleased to command that the sermon which he delivered should be published. The text was, “Not slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord,” and the sermon was published under the title,Religion in Common Life. Its theme was the necessity of carrying the religious spirit into all the ordinary practice of life, and the hollowness and worthlessness of any religion that wastes itself in feeling, in zeal for orthodoxy, or in the formalities of worship, and fails to consecrate the whole secular existence of man. In some sense, this sermon strikes the keynote of much of his later preaching and writing. For there was no thought on which he more constantly dwelt than that of the unreality of the hard divisions which are often made between one part of life and another, between faith and reason, between the church and the world, between the religious and the secular life in any of its forms. To break down such walls of separation, or to show their relative character, and the organic, or more than organic unity of life, is the theme of at least half of his later writing on theological or philosophical subjects.
As an illustration of the predominant thought of the sermon, I may quote the following letter written nearly at the same time, in which my brother first expresses the difficulty which he felt so strongly in his own case, of bringing his thought near enough to life, and then adds a few words upon the general question. “The greatest or one of the greatest difficulties that beset me, as a ghostly adviser of others, is the extreme unpracticalness of my sermonizing. It seems to me on reflection as if almost all I write were mere idealities. I spin out a leading thought or idea, with what seems a logical air of reasoning, into its various ramifications; but when I get to the end of it and pick up a newspaper, I often feel shocked at the sort of transition from the theoretical man and woman in the sermon, to the intense homely reality of the people and affairs that are talked of in the newspaper. And then I begin to wonder if people who know life do not think my thought that of a mere dreaming essayist; and if that be all—if they are merely sometimes pleased with the essay, and think I have worked out the idea tolerably well—what is the use of the whole affair? I might as well have been a scribbler of magazine articles, where literary effect is the only end aimed at…I don't like going into general society, indeed, to be honest, I shrink from it, with a distaste a monk might envy; but if I thought that ignorance of the world's ways rendered my talk ineffective and useless, I would either conquer the hermit in me, or take to some other line of work…The difficulty you talk of is a most real one: I mean that of bringing principles to bear on the common trials and petty anxieties of daily life. Theoretical affliction and submission in a book, or in our solemn and sometimes formal words in prayer, are a very different thing from that homely rugged, hard-featured thing that meets us in the face, when we come down from the clouds to the world of realities, the world of headaches and heartaches, of coarse, uncongenial contacts and intercourses. But this is our trial, and the trial which, since the age of persecution is passed away, is perhaps the most common and the most difficult to which a Christian is subjected. I know no help for it but perseverance and prayer. It is the old thought of great principles and small duties and trials, and I need not descant upon it to you. But I am quite convinced that Christian advancement consists in nothing so much as a habit, acquired by long effort and after many struggles and failures, of bringing high religious motive and feeling to bear on the common incidents of life. Don't you envy that state of mind where this has ceased to be a work of effort and conscious toil, when duty becomes a delight, God's presence constantly realized without endeavour, and so His service perfect freedom?”
The sermon speedily ran through many editions, was spoken of by Dean Stanley as “the best single sermon in the language,” and contributed to make its author known as a preacher in England as well as in Scotland. It was the first thing he had published; and but for the command of the Queen—who shortly after appointed him one of Her Majesty's chaplains for Scotland—he would not, as I gather from his letters, have been willing to publish it. Indeed, at this time he seemed almost oppressed by a sense of the defects of his own education, and of the need of greatly extending his knowledge of life and philosophy, before he could publish anything. “I shrink,” he wrote shortly before, “without more reading and thought than I have yet had the opportunity of undertaking, from the attempt to seek a wider scope for my thoughts than my own pulpit and parish can afford me.” But he was doing his best to make good the defects of which he was conscious. In particular, he eagerly studied the writings of Carlyle and Ruskin, the former of whom had a very deep influence upon him. He also read extensively in English theology, and was greatly interested in the writings of Newman and Pusey, and generally in the movement of which they were the leaders. He had, indeed, no sympathy, then or at any time, with sacerdotalism, and still less, if possible, with the tendency to make religion centre in the Sacraments. But in spite of this, he felt the attraction of the fresh stirring of religious life in the Church of England; and the controversies to which the movement gave rise caused him to reflect more deeply than he had hitherto done on the relation of Authority and Reason. Also, he was greatly interested in the effort after greater ‘beauty of holiness,’ greater attention to fitness and perfection of form in the expression of religious feeling. From the beginning of his ministry, he had felt a strong desire to modify the somewhat bald and prosaic form to which Puritanism had reduced the service of religion in Scotland. And the movement to improve the architecture of the churches, to devote greater attention to the musical training of choirs and congregations, and generally to elevate the æsthetic character of church worship, found in him a constant and active supporter.
Still more important, perhaps, as a step in intel lectual progress was the fact that he began the study of the German language and literature, and to bring his mind into contact with the theological and philosophical thought of Germany. He had for some time been sedulously reading the translations of the German orthodox theologians which were then beginning to be issued, and he was gradually drawn on from them to an interest in the writings of Schleiermacher, and, at a somewhat later period, of other German philosophers and theologians. I am not able to say how much he had done in this direction before he left Errol. He had at any rate begun a study which influenced him more and more as he advanced in it during the years that followed.
One point has already been indicated which it is necessary always to remember in order to understand his mental development both at this time and afterwards. He was not one of those who are early led by doubt to philosophical inquiry, and for whom any ethical and religious convictions which they attain, are deeply affected almost from the beginning by reflexion. Though he had a natural bent to philosophy, and eagerly studied logical and ethical subjects as they were presented to him at the University, it cannot be said that such studies had hitherto influenced him very deeply. The years during which he was at the University were, on the whole, years of philosophical barrenness. Hume had awakened Kant from his dogmatic slumbers, but he had been less successful in his native land, where a philosophy of ’Common Sense“ protected men from unsettling thoughts, and, as it were, consecrated the status quo. There was then in this country no very powerful stirring of thought, no very potent philosophical influence, with the doubtful exception of Coleridge; and religious controversy was generally concerned with quite other matters than the metaphysical basis of theology. Dr John Macleod Campbell had, indeed, for a moment troubled the waters by his attack upon some of the principles of Calvinism, and had perhaps loosened the hold of the strict system of Election and Predestination upon the religious life of Scotland. But the immediate effect was to produce a tendency to regard those doctrines as too mysterious for discussion, rather than to awake a thorough examination of the assumptions on which they are based. Perhaps this was one of the reasons which caused my brother in his earlier ministry to turn away from discussion of doctrine, and to dwell almost exclusively upon the ethical aspects of Christianity, and particularly on the idea of unity with Christ—leaving the dogmas of Theology to rest on the basis on which they were supposed to be secured by the words of Scripture, as interpreted by the tradition of the Reformed Churches.
At Errol, however, he began to be dissatisfied with this attitude and to seek for some more distinct rationale of the faith that was in him. The craving to make things clear and intelligible to himself was very deep in his nature. I do not think that his faith was ever seriously shaken; it was too closely bound up with his life, and wrought into all his habits of mind by years of pastoral work, to be so shaken. But after this period, he constantly seemed to feel that an uncritical, unreasoned, and unexplained faith was insufficient. And, almost unconsciously at first, he seemed to be looking in every direction for ideas which might light up those parts of the Christian system that seemed to him obscure. At a later time, the critical reaction of reflexion went somewhat further and carried him to the rejection or modification of many of the elements in the then commonly received views of Christian doctrine. But I think that it may fairly be said, that his philosophy, as it grew to clearness in his mind, seemed rather to confirm and deepen his faith in Christianity, by rendering its most mysterious doctrines luminous, and showing how its principles serve to explain the life of man and of the universe, than essentially to disturb or change it. This, however, is to anticipate what was, in the main, a later development.
During the eight years of his ministry in Errol, he had frequently preached in various parts of the country, and there was a growing demand for his services in aid of any important movement, charitable, educational, or religious. And after the first few years of rest in Errol, his clerical friends began to urge upon him the duty of again accepting the charge of some urban congregation, where his powers as a preacher would find a better field of exercise. As early as June 1855, he wrote in a half humorous spirit, to a friend who had informed him of some movement in Edinburgh that might lead to his being offered the charge of one of the most important churches in that city: “If you have ought of the cat-like love for familiar haunts and old well-known corners, of which I am conscious among very strong developments among my own bumps, I pity you just now very much, in your ejection from said haunts into all the unkindly felicities of a new home. It takes a long time before one's tendrils gather round and fix themselves on new objects, and the moss of quiet memories collects—the only thing of the sort a tidy housekeeper could not sweep away—on the unfamiliar habitation. People would call this sentimentality, but I daresay it is to some people a more real thing than roast beef. “And yet, O most cruel lady! you seem to hint at such a dissevering of roots and sweeping away of soft moss as with a sacrilegious housemaid's brush for me. Be the day far distant when any such vile necessity shall come. Every peeping geranium and fresh budding rose among the beds I have just been ‘planting out“ under my window seem to look reproachfully in my face at the very supposition. Health, strength, soundness of lung and throat and a long incumbency to the minister of —!”
For the present he refused to consider such offers; but at the end of the following year, he was strongly urged, especially by his friend, Dr. Watson, then a minister in Glasgow, to accept the charge of the Park Church, which was being built to meet the needs of the rapidly extending West End of the city; and about the same time he received an intimation that a similar offer was shortly to come from St. George's Church, Edinburgh. After some hesitation, my brother resolved to accept the Glasgow charge. His main reasons for the decision are explained in the following letter:—
“You will be surprised to learn that I was already informed of the St. George's movement. I heard about it yesterday from Mr. Stevenson…I wrote him a hurried reply, telling him, as I now tell you, that I have been in some perplexity for a few weeks past, about a similar invitation from the Glasgow people to accept the charge of their new church. In many respects the Glasgow position is one to my mind. The congregation is unformed, and so would be likely, when it is formed, to consist, not of those who tacitly submit to a man because he becomes minister of the church they occupy, but of those who would come to the church because they expected benefit from my way of teaching. It is, moreover, a church unconnected with the Presbytery—I mean not a Parish Church—and I hate Presbyteries; but in St. George's I should be forced to attend them. My work in Glasgow, again, would be mainly preaching and congregational visiting. Now, in Edinburgh, I felt that in addition to this the pressure of a large parish which I could not, and would not, neglect, was too much for me; and if I undertook it again I fear it would speedily be with the same result—retirement once more to the country. Even as it is, I believe that in Glasgow I shall have an assistant to help me, both in my public and private duties. The Glasgow church, finally, has been got up by men interested in the welfare of the Old Church, and at great cost, so that I do not know but that in point of duty they have a claim to any little support I can lend them. All things considered, therefore, though I am sorely reluctant to have my roots shaken and loosened once more, I am tending to the conclusion that I should accept the Glasgow invitation…I may mention, but only for your private information, that one other and minor reason for my preferring Glasgow is that I need not go there for nine or ten months hence, the church being only in process of building; and this time at present is almost necessary for the getting up of a volume of sermons which I am just beginning, but which, slow and laborious work as it is, would be quite impracticable amidst the engagements of St. George's.”
My brother's life in Errol, though monotonous, had been so peaceful, and had given him so much time for study, that he was very loath to exchange its quiet for the anxiety and hurry of a town charge. He had also formed very close ties of friendship with members of his congregation, which made it hard for him to leave them. Of this he speaks to a friend (in December, 1857):—
“I have for weeks been going round from morning to night to the houses of my poor people here, and discovering even in the humblest of them a depth of feeling for which I had scarcely given them credit. But it is sad work parting, and there is a sort of half reproachful tone in their kind wishes for my future which makes this transition especially painful to me. And then to think that another chapter in one's brief history is closing, and that a few, a very few more, and all will be over! Don't wonder, my dear friend, if I have not much heart to write about anything else just now.”
He preached his first sermon in Park Church on the last Sunday of 1857. And in June of the following year he was married to Isabella Glover, daughter of the Rev. Dr. Glover, of Greenside Church, Edinburgh, a union that added greatly to the happiness of his after life.
Of his ministry in Park Church I am not able to say much. The congregation was not one which required a great deal in the way of pastoral care, and he had therefore more leisure to devote himself to preaching and preparation for it. “For me,” he declares (in November, 1858), “I am writing away hard enough in my small way, but whether with much profit to myself and others I cannot perceive. The mere intellectual work is, I fear, but too apt to overlay the deeper aim of thinking and writing for the pulpit; and I have an uneasy suspicion sometimes that there would be truer self-abnegation in giving myself to outward pastoral work, and less, or less elaborately, to that of solitary thought and sermonizing. On the other hand, perhaps no man can be true or useful to others unless he is first true to himself and to whatsoever gift, little or great, God has given him. But I don't see my way clear in the matter.” His sermons by this time had become richer in thought and more weighty in expression; his style was somewhat chastened of its early exuberance, and his speaking showed more self-command and restraint, without as yet losing any of its force—though perhaps it might be somewhat less attractive for a popular audience. He still felt that his essential vocation was preaching, and not long before, after an illness, he had written to a friend: “I have now quite got rid of the effects of indisposition, and resumed my work, greatly delighted, I confess, to get into the pulpit once more. Many false motives mingle but too often with one's pleasure in preaching, and as the corruption of the best things is always the worst, a minister's work may become a very degrading one; still, if prosecuted in a right spirit, it is surely the noblest sort of work on earth. And I am sure you can easily conceive how intensely interesting, how almost necessary to one's existence it becomes. If God were to lay me aside from this work, I should pray and strive, I hope, for grace to submit; but the fresh zest with which I have returned to it at present makes me feel how very different a thing, apart from this vocation, life would become.”
In another letter his view of the matter is less hopeful:—“I am sure you are right in thinking that a minister ought to be, if he has it in him, the thoughtful and thought-inspiring educator of his people. But in what conceivable position can he fill this office in our day and country? Among a rural auditory the head can only be reached through the feelings, and except for ideas of the broadest and most palpably material sort, the teacher in such a position has no scope. In a civic auditory, such as an Edinburgh congregation, the capacity of thinking is often very little greater, and when it does exist, the horrible spirit of church bigotry and narrow-souled orthodoxy is now so rampant, that any sort of teaching that does not bear the broad stamp of orthodox mintage in tone and language is apt to be looked upon with a very suspicious eye. ‘This is not the simple Gospel,’ as if simplicity in religion, any more than in learning, meant always going over the well-conned A, B, C; or preaching the Gospel, harping perpetually on ‘old news.’ I have sometimes in my day-dreams let my mind picture to me a preacher's Paradise: a quiet, not very numerous but thoughtful and earnest-minded people, bringing each successive week thought to meet thought, and ready to reciprocate every real feeling, and to carry away and embody in the practical discipline of a holy life every hint, suggestion, principle, that had aught of truth and reality in it. But I must not run on at this rate, else my letter will become a sermon.”
The general character of my brother's preaching in Park Church may be gathered from the volume of sermons mentioned in one of the letters quoted above, which was prepared mainly during his last year at Errol and published early in the first year of his ministry in Glasgow. Generally speaking, it is marked by the characteristics of his earlier preaching; but there are in it traces of more mature thought and of wider views of the meaning of Christianity. There are perhaps two points which distinguish it from the common run of sermons preached at that time in Scotland. In the first place, there is throughout a persistent effort to break down all artificial boundaries between religion and ordinary experience, and, by every resource of image and comparison which the writer can command, to re-translate the terms of dogmatic theology into the language of common life, and to bring out its essential ethical meaning. As in the sermon on “Religion in Common Life,” he wars against every form of piety that keeps religion for Sundays, or hides it in a mystery, or identifies it with peculiar feelings, practices, or beliefs, so in this volume of sermons he is continually striving to reach a distinct realization of the real moral value of each of the articles of the Christian system.
Another characteristic of these sermons is the ever-recurring thought of the greatness of the possibilities of human nature. The consciousness of the manifold intellectual and moral experience of which man is capable, of the infinite sadness of his common sorrows and the infinite sweetness of his common joys—the feeling of humanity and sympathy with ἡ σύμΠασα τοῠ βίου τραγῳδία καί κομῳδία—was perhaps the deepest thing in his nature, and the main source of his power as an orator. For qualities peculiar to the few, for the tastes and characteristics of special classes of men, for things away from the general experience, he had little appreciation—sometimes, indeed, a kind of repulsion. But no one had a more constant feeling of the wonder of ordinary human life, and the pathos of its transitory happiness in the ever near presence of death; and few were more easily moved to action by a tale of distress, or more careful, when so moved, to keep their left hand from knowing what the right hand was doing. And, on the other hand, it was equally natural for him to dwell upon the contrast of the chances and changes of man's destiny, with the possibilities of his nature and the infinite importance of the moral issues of his life. Many of the sermons read like variations on the great theme of Pascal: “Man is but a reed, and the weakest in nature; but he is a reed that thinks. It does not need the universe to crush him; a breath of air, a drop of water will kill him. But even if the material universe overwhelm him, man would be more noble than that which destroys him, because he knows that he dies, while the universe knows nothing of the advantage it obtains over him.” It may, indeed, be said that pulpit oratory is too apt to dwell on this contrasted view of life, and so to lose hold of reality in the search for antithesis. And it is no doubt true that public speaking in all its forms is obliged to a certain extent to paint in black and white, in order to make its distinctions visible to the popular eye. But the danger of such rhetorical antithesis is removed, or greatly lessened, when it is accompanied, as it always was in my brother's case, by a persistent effort to make the contrast intelligible.
I may introduce at this point a description contrasting his earlier and later manner of preaching, for which I am indebted to Dr. Story, who is his successor as Principal of the University of Glasgow.
You wish to have my “earlier recollections” of Dr. Caird as a preacher. It is not easy to summon these to come back across the abyss of fifty years. It was when he was minister of Lady Yester's, and I a lad not yet at College, that I first heard him, in 1849. But the impressions of these youthful days are clear in outline still, and the recollections more vivid than many of later date. After he went to Errol, he used to preach, occasionally, in Edinburgh, in St. George's sometimes, oftener, I think, in Greenside, to congregations always as large as the church would hold. I remember well my first sight of him, in Lady Yester's: A slim young man, pallid in complexion, with a mane of long jet-black hair, which he had a way of throwing back from his forehead in the fervour of preaching, as if he felt its weight—a dark eye capable of quick varieties of expression, and a voice of singular flexibility, rich in tone, wide in compass. He began the service with an air of reverence and solemnity that arrested attention; and his prayers were marked with an order in arrangement and beauty of diction, specially noticeable in those days. The sermon was of course, as always in Scotland, the centre of interest, and as a work of art and exhibition of rhetorical power, struck the youthful listener then—and the conviction has never suffered change—as the highest effort in that kind that even the Scottish pulpit could display. Chalmers, to judge by the popular accounts of him, must have been more overwhelming, more absolute in rugged power; but his rough voice had none of the musical inflexions and polished force of Caird's, and his style had none of his literary grace and felicity. When Caird got into the full flow of his declamation, one was carried off in the impetuous torrent, whether one would or not. The fire of the eye, the rapidity of the gestures, the resonance of the voice, the sacred passion of the orator, were not to be withstood. However dull and unemotional you might be, you felt the magnetic contagion, and were “taken captive of him at his will.” After those years, 1849–52, I did not hear him again until he had for some time been settled in Glasgow. A certain change had meanwhile passed on him. The old charm and power were there, but the tremendous oratorical force was restrained. The sermons were read. To the thoughtful hearer they were, no doubt, better worth the hearing. They were, as of old, eloquent, but the eloquence was less exuberant, and the substance and the theological tone of the preaching were different from the earlier type.
The year 1862 brought a great change in his life. I have already said that in Errol he had begun to think more about the philosophical basis of his creed, and this tendency to reflection had become still stronger in the intervening years, so that, even in his sermons, he often introduced a partial discussion of the doctrinal aspects of Christianity. When, therefore, the Chair of Theology in the University of Glasgow became vacant, he was urged by some of his friends to become a candidate for it; and, after much hesitation, and with many doubts of his capacity for its duties, he did so. He was unanimously elected to the office by the University Court; but, by arrangement with the previous professor, Dr. Hill, he did not take up his duties until after the Christmas vacation. His motives in undertaking the work of an academic teacher are indicated in the following letter (dated November 24, 1862): “As for myself, you divine my present state of mind. I know not whether to be glad or sorry; satisfied or alarmed. It was only after long hesitation, and much conflict of mind, that I applied for my new post. I think I acted more in deference to the advice of others, to whose judgment I defer, than on my own convictions…If I let them rise, I know that I would at this moment be the victim of all sorts of wistful, regretful feelings; for it is no light thing to give up a kind of work that, with all its worry and anxiety, has been very congenial work, and to enter upon a new career for which I am inadequately prepared. And there is, apart from that, the mere fact that it is the closing of one chapter, and the opening of a new one in a book that contains but few at the most, and that will soon be closed…But I do not let myself dwell on these things; my path is now clear, and I must act in the ‘not backward are our glances bent’ spirit. Moreover, to tell the truth, I am for the present precluded from almost any thought but work; for, you know, I was appointed to the Chair only a few days ago, and without a scrap of MS. in readiness, I am called to lecture after the Christmas holidays.…
“In many respects, if I had time to think, I know I should feel the position of theological teacher of the future teachers of our church to be a very noble one, well worthy of the devotion of a man's whole life and energy. God help me. I am profoundly conscious of weakness and unworthiness, but I shall do my very best; and if I fail it will be a sign that my place and work lie elsewhere, and I shall try to bear my disappointment meekly…It is very kind of you to warn me of the censorship to which, in common with every man who ventures to think or speak one word out of the routine jargon that stands for thought and faith with so many, I am subjected. I must lay my account with that, but I shall not needlessly provoke it. I have not the shadow of a wish for notoriety, not certainly for notoriety of that kind. My only desire is to work out of sight, and do my share of the world's work, quietly and usefully.”
Later he writes (January 14, 1863), “I would gladly write to you a long story at present, but I write after a hard day's work, and with the prospect of a six o'clock beginning of another to-morrow. I am in the sad position of being obliged, on the most important and difficult questions, to run off the merest superficialities, without time for maturing my views. When I manage to get a day beforehand with my lecture, the next at once suggests modifications which imply the throwing of my last night's lucubrations into the fire. And all this with the responsibility of guiding others! Oh for summer and the green fields, and a month's quiet musing!
“I am very glad that you liked my Introductory Lecture, and also that you thought of telling me so. I like approbation, as who does not? when I can trust it. But oh, the odiousness of vulgar admiration of the popular preacher! Right glad am I, for one thing, to have done with that…The lecture is not what you think it, and I won't publish it separately. It was got up after my appointment, to meet a special emergency; and though, of course, I believe in it myself, yet I might afterwards, as my knowledge increases and convictions mature, regret having stereotyped my crudeness. This note, I fear, looks very like what it is, the last maunderings on the verge of unconsciousness. Good night!”
The Introductory Lecture referred to in the above letters was characteristically devoted to an assertion of the possibility of treating theology as a science, and the repudiation of all defences of religion on sceptical principles, and especially of that recently made by Mansel on the basis of the Hamiltonian philosophy. Such an agnostic apology for Christianity, in which security for the faith was sought in the incapacity of man to criticise it, seemed to my brother like calling in the devil to protect the sanctuary.1 He had indeed, at an earlier period, rested for a moment in the evasion of Leibniz, that a thing might be above reason, without being contrary to it; but he soon discovered that such a distinction meant nothing.2 As this Inaugural Lecture strikes the key-note of his later teaching, it may be desirable to give a short account of it.
He begins by pointing out the relation of Theology, as the Philosophy of Religion, to the physical and natural sciences, showing the difference of their methods, but maintaining the claims of the former to be in the highest sense scientific knowledge. He repudiates “the false opposition between personality and law,” and the inference that religion has to do with that which is arbitrary. “The signs of the highest personality are not to be sought in the manifestation of mere will, but in the manifestation of will under the guidance of intelligence—that is, of will acting rationally and regularly, of will acting by law. When we consider the idea of personality more carefully, it will be seen that it manifests itself as mere will only in the weakest and most childish natures, in persons whose ideas are unprincipled, governed by no plan or rule, with respect to whose actions we can form no calculation; for you do not know what whim may seize them, what fallacy mislead them, into what vagary their inconsistent life may fall. But the more wise and thoughtful a man becomes, the wider the reach of his foresight and the range of his knowledge, the more fixed and consolidated his principles of action, —with the greater confidence can you predict what he will say and do; for the more numerous become the data on which your calculations are based. And the highest activity, the nearest approach to infallible uniformity of conduct would be attained, if the agent became, what no human person is, perfectly wise and good.”
The lecturer then goes on to deal with the objections of those who hold that God, as an infinite and absolute Being, is beyond the reach of knowledge. “Nature manifests mind, but can we rise above nature, and know the infinite mind of which it is the expression? Is the supernatural accessible to human intelligence?” Sir William Hamilton, in his modified revival of Kantian principles, had propounded a doctrine as to the relativity of knowledge, from which Mansel drew the theological inference, that by the necessary laws of thought we are precluded from knowing God. “To think is to relate and to condition, and therefore thought, by its essential nature, cannot grasp the Absolute and the Unconditioned.” By a train of thought, which has become more familiar since the time when he spoke, the lecturer shows that the view of the Infinite and the Absolute, upon which Mansel proceeds, reduces it to indeterminate being, and that such being is the opposite of the real Infinite. “God, the highest of all beings, should be one, of whom not the fewest, but the greatest number, of qualitative limitations can be predicated. He is the Being in whom are all conceivable powers, excellencies, good and great qualities in their highest perfection…The conclusion, therefore, to which by such considerations we seem to be led, is, that the intellectual impotence with relation to divine things, of which so much has been made by this school of thinkers, is no real impotence. It is the impotence of thinking about nothing. If this philosophy be true, it is the apotheosis of zero; the highest type of religion would be sheer vacuity of mind, and of all human beings the idiot would be the most devout.” He then goes on to show that, on the principles of Mansel, we would be precluded, not only in the present, but for ever, from the knowledge of God.
“For the disability which this philosophy supposes is one that pertains to us not as human beings, but as finite beings—not as defective creatures, but simply as creatures. It is therefore a disability which applies to all finite and created beings, which would only cease by our ceasing to be finite…The creature, on this view, must be transformable into the creator before it can know the creator. And the awful conclusion is, that the Father of the Universe is shut out from communication with His children, and they from Him.
“In conclusion, let me say that it is not in the spirit of this philosophy that I desire to teach. Humility is wholesome, but not the humility that teaches us to abjure our birthright, or to court the Master's approval by telling Him that we have hid His talent in the earth. It is well to study and learn the limits of human knowledge, but it is not well or wise to prescribe ignorance as the remedy for presumption. The self-sufficiency of reason it is well to check; but it is not therefore necessary to prevent its vagaries by a self-imposed banishment from the presence of God…Man is a mystery to himself; how can he think to comprehend God? The commonest phenomena of nature, the lowest manifestations of life, of which the physiologist takes note, include secrets which human science cannot penetrate: shall we expect to find everything patent in the manifestation of the eternal life of the heavens? But, all this admitted, it does not follow that because we cannot know all, our partial knowledge is not therefore to be trusted; that because human intelligence cannot comprehend God, it can have no real knowledge of Him; because it cannot ‘find out the Almighty to perfection,’ it can never know Him at all. Hopeless and universal indeed would be our ignorance, if that can never claim to be knowledge which is not perfect knowledge. In that case, we are not only incapable of knowing God, but also our fellowmen and ourselves. For who will contend that he has fathomed the depths of a single human heart, or that the philosophy of the human mind contains for him no insoluble problem? If, then, we feel that we do know something of our brother, though we cannot know all, we conclude that our knowledge of God may be real, though it cannot be exhaustive. ‘He hath given us an understanding to know Him that is true.’…
“It is to this knowledge, in so far as it admits of a systematic or scientific development, that I have been called, however unworthily, to act as your guide. It is no simple or easy task. The office of the theologian, though not higher, is, I am well aware, one involving intellectual exercises far more severe and subtle than those of the preacher. He may be a fluent or eloquent speaker who has no analytic power to trace and to expound those principles which lie at the root of all language, which are involved in all accurate speech. The instinctive sharpness of the special pleader may be utterly dissociated from the power to investigate the laws of thought, or to develop the dialectical principles and rules which are involved in the act of reasoning. And in like manner, higher in one view though the qualifications of the preacher of the truth may be, yet it is quite possible for a man to feel and declare in apt and impressive words the truths of the Gospel, who is destitute of the power scientifically to analyze and defend them. To the theologian appertains the duty, not simply to state and enforce the truths and duties of religion, but to investigate the sources and extent of our religious knowledge, to point out the evidence on which our belief of it rests, to define and verify each separate conception or doctrine, to show the manifold relations of different truths, and to mould all the separate elements into a consistent and systematic form. All this, to be done well, implies something rarer than the rhetorician's art. To such a task, never did any one approach with a more anxious and depressing sense of inadequacy than that with which I now undertake it. I come to it fresh from parochial work, the weekly exigencies of which left me little or no leisure for research, or for studies that could not be immediately utilized. In those high researches in which we shall be engaged, I shall often be only feeling my own way on a path where I am but a few steps in advance of those to whom I act as guide. The views of divine truth to be submitted to you will, in form at least, be as the sheaves which a reaper has brought back from the harvest field, as the spoils of a wrestler but just released from the conflict. But be that as it may, to Him who is the Revealer of the Word of Truth, which is to be our daily study, to Him who is the Giver of all light and life, Himself ‘the Light of all our seeing,’ I commend myself and you. And filled with the profoundest sense of inadequacy, yet with at least that preparation which arises from the most ardent love and enthusiasm for the study, I begin my work.”
The attitude taken up towards science and philosophy in this lecture was, at the time, a new thing in the Theological Halls of Scotland, and it provoked a good deal of comment, partly unfriendly. Theologians were startled by the appeal to reason as the final arbiter of truth; and the philosophical followers of Hamilton, then numerous in Scotland, were irritated by the uncompromising rejection of Mansel's use of the ‘philosophy of the Conditioned,’ as a defence of religion. Beyond a few letters in the newspapers, however, no public notice was taken of the lecture; but at this time, and for many years after, there was an atmosphere of suspicion attached to my brother's name in what are called ‘religious circles.’ He was frequently accused of Rationalism, of Socinianism, and even of darker heresies than these. But none of these charges ever found expression in any definite proceeding before the Church Courts, till a much later date (1874), when a futile attack was made upon him in the Presbytery of Glasgow, for a sermon, now printed in the volume of University Sermons, on “the Guilt and Guiltlessness of Unbelief.”On that occasion, he refused to make any defence, or give any explanation; but when his principal accuser attempted to justify his withdrawal of the charge, by asserting that in re-delivering the sermon, my brother had modified the passages objected to, he, for once in his life, wrote to the papers to state that “the sermon preached in Dundee, on the newspaper report of which the charge of heresy was based, and the sermon preached in Edinburgh, on a report of which, it seems, the charge is to be withdrawn, are word for word, the same.” Gradually in his later years such reports died away, as a result mainly of the great changes of opinion, within and without the church, which he, among others, had a considerable share in causing.
The truth is that such suspicions were awakened and partly justified, not by any special assertion of his that could be called heretical, but rather by the new tone of his teaching and the unfamiliar point of view from which he spoke. In a sense he was more orthodox than many of his assailants; for he sought to find an intelligible meaning in doctrines, which for them had become a dead tradition, or an incomprehensible mystery. But this new attitude of mind could not but puzzle and irritate those who were accustomed to identify truth with a traditional creed that neither developed nor changed; and to whom the re-interpretation of old doctrines, with all the subtle changes of matter and expression which it involved, seemed to disturb and unsettle all the terms of the so-called “ Scheme of Salvation.” The real question, however, was not one of heterodoxy or orthodoxy, but of the introduction of a freer movement of thought, which broke through the limits of both, and substituted for the mechanical repetition of formulas, the natural and ever changing expression of a growing spiritual life. Such a movement can hardly be resisted by the ordinary weapons of controversy, because it does not affect any special dogma or substitute its opposite for it, but rather alters the whole way of looking at doctrinal statements. Just because it involves a greater revolution than any change of specific articles, because it involves in a manner the denial and restatement of them all, it is hardly perceptible from day to day, even to those who are the instruments of it, and not perceptible at all to the general public. But he who measures the change in the religious ideas of the country during the last fifty years, can see that it has more importance than if one of the parties in any of the great controversies of the past had converted their opponents. Something more has happened than any shifting of dogmatic formulas, and it has happened in many cases without any such shifting. The bones, so to speak, may seem to remain the same, but they have been clothed, or are gradually clothing themselves, with the living tissue of a new organic structure. It is to this kind of change in the general ethical and religious attitude of the new time, that my brother's work contributed most. His mind was in some ways strongly conservative, and hardly, and with difficulty, separated itself from anything that was hallowed by the associations of the past; but his persistent desire to make things intelligible, and to fertilize his most cherished beliefs by fresh thought and improved expression, made him a suggestive and stimulating teacher of the religious teachers of Scotland, and did much to fill their minds with the new ideas that are gradually changing the world, and especially the religious life of modern Europe.
My brother's strength was very much strained during his first session, as he had passed directly from the care of his church to his professorial duties; and, indeed, for a time had to attend to both together. And, as he states in a letter quoted above, he had no lectures written, and no time to make special preparations for teaching, before his academic labours began. It is true that during previous years, his studies in theology and philosophy had been becoming more and more thorough, but the care of the Park Church had left him few intervals for such work. Now, however, he was able to devote the long six months' vacations to a course of systematic reading, especially in the history of doctrine, and subsequently in the general history of religion. And in connection therewith he also very greatly extended his philosophical studies, with, of course, a special view to the criticism of religious ideas. I may perhaps be excused for speaking of myself at this point, as I can hardly discharge my task without mentioning any intimate association with my brother during the years which followed. Being a good many years his junior, I had long looked up to him as an elder brother, had been much assisted by him in my earlier years of study, and had generally spent a considerable part of my vacations in his house. I had gradually, I may say, grown into his friendship, and after 1866, when I became a professor in the University of Glasgow, I was in constant, and, during the session, almost daily communication with him, for a period of twentyeight years. Many a discussion have we had on subjects of philosophy, theology, or University affairs, during walks in the country, in his smokingroom, or in summer evenings while strolling up and down in front of the University and looking down upon the lights of Glasgow. Such a friendship, made more intimate and confidential by the natural tie of brotherhood, by many common studies, and by a general sympathy of mind, which was the deeper that it was united with many partial differences in our points of view and habits of thought, is one of the most sustaining and inspiring things in life. It made it possible for us to give to each other continually the benefit of the freest criticism, without a risk of misunderstanding; and the thought of each other's appreciation was to us both one of the strongest encouragements to effort: at least it was so with myself, and I believe it was so with him. The main difference between us was, that while I could hardly dissociate from philosophical study any of the convictions I had attained, philosophy was for him—at least in any form that strongly influenced his inner life—a later acquisition. It was at Errol that he first seriously turned his thoughts to the subject; it came to signify more and more to him during the years that followed; and when he entered on his duties as a teacher, he felt the necessity of making his studies in this direction as thorough and comprehensive as possible. What he sought in philosophy was primarily to make faith intelligent and intelligible. The words of Anselm, which he subsequently used as the motto to his Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion, might be held to express his permanent attitude on this subject: negligentia mihi videtur, si postquam confirmati sumus in fide, non studemus quod credimus intelligere.3 But he did not, like Anselm, undertake this search for a rationale of faith with any scholastic presupposition that reflection could not modify the doctrine with which he started. At the same time he had a confidence, which did not lessen with time, that such modifications could not touch anything which was really essential to religious life, or to Christianity. His life as a pastor and preacher had given him a deep and, I may say, an unshakable conviction of the general truth of the Christian view of life, of its adaptation to human nature, and of its capacity of supplying a key to the practical difficulties of human experience. In his sermons for the Park Church, as well as those written subsequently, there is no theme to which he more frequently recurred. He was, therefore, completely emancipated from that fear of reason, which seems to hang so often like a weight upon the most spiritually-minded of the orthodox clergy. He was prepared to sacrifice everything that would not stand the test of criticism; but he had an assurance, deeper than could be felt by any one who had not gone through a similar experience, that such criticism would be fatal only to the ‘wood, hay, and stubble’ that had been built by unskilled hands upon the foundation of Christ, and not to the stones of the temple, still less to the foundation itself. Perhaps he did not realize —I say this only to indicate a difference between us which was never completely settled in all our discussions—how great must be the transformation of the creed of Christendom, before, in the language of Goethe's well-known tale, the hut of the fisherman can be transformed into the altar of the great Temple of Humanity.
As to his success as a teacher of Theology, I think it best to allow his pupils to speak; though I will not deny that in the following testimonies, some allowance may be made for the loyalty and gratitude of students to a professor who has opened up for them a new sphere of thought. From many such testimonies to the power of his teaching, I select the following. In the Scotsman for August 1st, 1898, an old student writes:
It is nearly forty years since Dr. Caird resigned his brilliant ministerial prospects to become Professor of Divinity in the University of Glasgow. At that time there were not wanting wiseacres who shook their heads over the appointment, distrusting the influence over young preachers of one whose orthodoxy they suspected, wondering whether the brilliant rhetorician would prove a close reasoner, and whether the masterly preacher would prove a successful teacher. All these fears were soon falsified. Many a minister can tell how his first real abiding interest in theology dated from the hour when the new Professor of Divinity began to expound it; how, in his hands, the old doctrines became full of human interest. The mind of even the most commonplace divinity student was stimulated, and his enthusiasm kindled, by the apt criticism, the high and reverent speculation, the personal influence of a teacher, who was himself a student, bringing forth from day to day from his treasury things new as well as old…Students who went to his class under the idea that they would only have to listen to oratory, were speedily disillusioned. Dr. Caird soon proved himself to be a severe reasoner, as well as a brilliant illustrator. In his hands, theology glowed with life, and his students found they had as a teacher, not merely one who was in touch with modern thought, but who was himself making it…One feature of his teaching was the entire absence of the dividing of Christianity into many separate doctrines; and it may be truly said that few professors have put their mark so convincingly upon so many ministers of the church, without making them adherents of any peculiar or limited school. So far as practicable, the Chair was made one of pastoral as well as of systematic theology, and there are not a few occupying now the pulpits of Scotland, whose first clear ideas of what a sermon ought to be, and of the dignity and responsibility of their calling, came from Dr. Caird.
I am favoured with the following estimates of his work as a Professor by the Rev. Dr. M‘Adam Muir, of the Cathedral, Glasgow, and the Rev. Dr. Strong, of Hillhead Parish Church, Glasgow, both of them former pupils.
Dr. M‘Adam Muir writes:
It is not too much to say that attendance at Dr. Caird's class marked an epoch in the life of every one of his students. To many of them it meant a complete revolution in their way of looking at things, upon all of them it produced a profound influence. It was a time of special agitation in the theological world, and excellent people not unfrequently warned us to beware lest we should be “unsettled” by the new Professor. There are those who can thankfully bear witness that, instead of unsettlement, they found in his teaching stability and confirmation. His object, we came to learn, was not so much to instil his own particular views into our minds as to make us think for ourselves. A course of lectures might be fragmentary and unfinished, but the conclusions might safely be left for us to work out at leisure. His method might be utterly different from the ordinary method, but it was full of life and suggestion. One thing which could not fail to strike us was his fairness in stating the case of opponents. He presented as clearly, as sympathetically, the argument which he sought to controvert as that which he sought to establish. While fearless and open, he was at the same time singularly wise and judicious in the statement of his opinions. He would never wantonly wound the conviction, or even the prejudices, of the earnest. He disliked negative teaching: he was constructive, not destructive; he contented himself, as a rule, with enunciating truth, leaving the error to die of itself. He did not, for example, enter into the details of the Sunday Question or of Subscription to the Westminster Confession, which, in consequence of the utterances of Dr. Norman Macleod and Principal Tulloch, were evoking very keen feeling, but he incidentally laid down principles which sufficiently indicated his own position and guided us to take up our own. During his delivery of the Gifford Lectures, it was no uncommon thing to hear it said, “How remarkably Dr. Caird's views must have been modified!” as if he were in his later days building up the Faith which formerly he had destroyed. The teaching was practically the same as that which he gave to his students. The change was in public sentiment rather than in him, a change which he himself had materially helped to bring about. The reader of the Gifford Lectures will rejoice in the spirituality, the thoughtfulness, the eloquence by which they are distinguished; he may understand the enthusiasm with which we heard the earlier lectures when the views embodied in them were comparatively new. So far as I can remember, Dr. Caird never had reason to complain of inattention: all were interested alike by the matter and the manner. He indulged in no rhetorical declamation, but the power of the orator continually revealed itself. The language always so felicitous, the voice always so exquisitely modulated, lent an indescribable charm to his instruction. I can never forget his reading of Shelley's Arethusa:
From her couch of snows
In the Acroceraunian mountain,
and, though it is almost too sacred to mention, I am sure my fellow-students will bear me out in saying that the brief prayer which he daily used left upon our minds an impression of devoutness to which we can hardly find a parallel. No novelty of thought, no stateliness of diction, touched us so much as the man himself. We regarded him with what I believe to have been an altogether unique combination of reverence, affection, and confidence: a reverence, an affection, a confidence which did not cease when we were no longer under his immediate influence, but continued to deepen to the end; and his memory will remain to us as that of one of the greatest, simplest, and best men whom we have ever known.
Dr. Strong writes:
Though it is now more than thirty years since I was a student under Principal Caird, my recollection is still most vivid of the style and substance of his teaching, and of his magnetic influence on me and on many of any fellowstudents. His coming to the Divinity Hall was truly a time of awakening among us. Whispered conversation, surreptitious reading of books and newspapers, once so common, now suddenly ceased. We listened to the lectures, full of interest in his fresh presentation of what had been to us hitherto but dry and antiquated doctrines—charmed with Dr. Caird's lucid and illustrative style—set thinking, even the dullest and most careless among us, while he mercilessly dissected some familiar theory, or supported a received doctrine by arguments and analogies to us most novel and striking.
Dr. Caird's object as a professor was twofold. On the one hand, to make us think clearly—to give us a rational apprehension of divine truth; and, on the other hand, to render us apt expositors of that truth—able to teach others also—to make them see what was visible to our eyes. He did us an invaluable service in keeping us steadily at work. In the oral examination on his lectures to which we were daily subjected, as well as in the weekly essay which we were required to write, and which he openly criticised, sometimes to our confusion, he compelled our attention and brought home to us our own ignorance or misapprehension. But he was withal a generous critic, and whether we happened to agree with him or not, he was ever ready to recognize and commend any attempt at serious thinking, any evidence of diligence or power.
Dr. Caird was the first, so far as I know, to invite, and even to insist on, some attempt on our part to preach extempore; for he used to say that ordinary congregations could hardly be expected to listen patiently to a man “glowerin' at a paper.” The effort was often painful, and the result ludicrous, but it gave a wonderful stimulus to latent powers in the students; while the suggestions offered by the professor at the close of the hour, as to the proper treatment of the special text or subject, were to many a revelation of what a sermon ought to be.
In these his earliest lectures on theology, our revered professor gave us in outline very much what in his latest (Gifford) lectures he has treated more fully. His aim from first to last has been the same—to place theology on a rational basis—to bring our thinking on the greatest of all subjects into line with our thinking on other subjects of serious import—thus to give theology a philosophic or scientific basis, and to harmonize, if not to identify, natural and revealed religion. There are not a few among us to-day who owe to him our first clear idea as to the place and meaning of Christian doctrine—our first definite conception of what and how, as ministers, we ought to teach. Nor can we ever forget the spirit of devoutness and reverence which by word and example he ever inculcated. We cherish, and are the better for, the dear memory of one, indifferent to wordy theological warfare, and to vulgar worldly ambition, because he lived among the things unseen and eternal.
As to the matter of his teaching, it is obvious from the introductory lecture that he was greatly influenced by the idealistic philosophy. In fact, as he often maintained, it is in some form of that philosophy that one who would defend theology, as a form of scientific knowledge and not merely as a supernatural revelation, must find his weapons. At first he was mainly interested in the Kantian proof of the relativity of knowledge of the objective world to the consciousness of self—a principle which, however, he carried out to its consequences, irrespective of the limitations within which Kant confines it. Subsequently, his thoughts turned more and more to the Hegelian development of this principle, and its application to theology. He was interested in Hegel mainly by two things: first, by the thoroughness with which he carries out the idealistic principle, and, secondly, by the strong grasp of ethical and religious experience which is perhaps Hegel's greatest characteristic. To the first of these points my brother continually recurred. As he would have nothing to do with sceptical defences of religion, so he spoke almost with contempt of the various halfway houses that have been built between the position of Kant and a thorough-going Idealism, as also of the many attempts of modern theologians to evade the open field of thought, and to fall back upon some moral, or æsthetic, or religious faith, which is not to be explained or criticised by reason. Above all, he distrusted the policy of writers who use the weapons of Idealism to defend the faith, and then attempt to repudiate the aid of Idealism.
As to the second point, I have already said that it was the ethical meaning of Christianity, and especially the idea of self-identification with Christ, which had been the main theme of his earliest preaching. And this characteristic of it did not alter in later days, except in so far as his increasing study of philosophy led him more and more to generalize the principles of Christianity, and to follow them out in their wider application to life and thought. In like manner, in his lectures to students as in his subsequent writings, it was always the ethical bearings of principles that most strongly interested him, and on which he spoke with most force and originality. He was drawn to Hegel, therefore, most of all, because he seemed to find as the basis of all Hegel's speculation a close and living perception of the facts of the moral and spiritual life. It has often been said that Hegel twisted the doctrines of Christianity to suit his dialectic, and it is certain that the result of his treatment did not leave them quite unchanged, but gave them a new interpretation; as, indeed, every process of thought that is of any value must in some way transform the data with which it starts. Still there is, I think, considerable evidence4 that the Hegelian dialectic was not generalized independently and then applied to Christian doctrine, but was rather itself reached in the first instance, by carrying back into its logical presuppositions theChristian doctrine of the relations of the divine and the human. At any rate, any one who reads my brother's Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion must feel that, for him at least, the language of religion and philosophy, the words of Scripture and the dialectical evolution of thought, passed into each other without any consciousness of a break or incongruity; and that it was as the philosophical interpretation and explanation of the latter that the former had its strongest hold upon him. He no doubt admitted and maintained, that the half-metaphorical language of ordinary thought is inadequate to express spiritual relations, and in his Introduction he attempted to explain the grounds, nature, and extent of this inadequacy; but he was not led by this into that abstract separation or opposition of truth in philosophy to truth as it exists for the ordinary religious mind, which is perhaps the greatest danger of imperfect speculation upon religion—of any speculation that has an insufficient grasp and appreciation of the facts speculated about. If he committed an error it was rather that he followed Hegel in believing that the whole structure of dogma, as it has been developed by the Church, could be re-interpreted by philosophical reflection, without any essential change.
I find a difficulty in dealing with the often-made assertion that my brother was a Hegelian, because, in view of the many interpretations of that philosophy, it is difficult to know what the critic means by the charge. He was undoubtedly very deeply influenced by Hegel, and believed himself to be in the main interpreting his thought. In fact, if the question had been put to himself, he would perhaps have said that he was a mere popularizer of the thoughts of greater men, of whom, among the philosophers, he would have put Hegel first. But he seldom quotes Hegel, and never uses his thoughts without impressing something of an individual stamp upon them, or at least giving to them a new expression. He was entirely with Hegel in his trust in the powers of the human intelligence; and would have said in his language that “ The hidden being of the Universe has no power in itself that could offer resistance to the courageous effort of science.”5 He was without fear of scientific and philosophic criticism, and believed that any doubt awakened by it would end in revealing a deeper basis of truth. He followed Hegel also, as I have said, in refusing to seek safety for religion in any of the cities of refuge that have been opened for it since the days of Kant: in feeling, in the moral consciousness, or in some special form of an æsthetic or religious intuition, which is to be regarded as above reason and exempt from criticism. But if Hegelianism is, as some tell us, the resolution of the life of the world into “some spectral woof of impalpable abstractions, or unearthly ballet of bloodless categories”; if it is the substitution of the theory of reality for reality itself; if it is a system that resolves man into a mere modus of the divine, or God into the poetic substantiation of an abstraction —and all these things have been said of Hegel; if it even means a denial of the substantial truth of the ordinary Christian consciousness, and the substitution for it of a philosophical theory, then my brother was not a Hegelian. In fact, there is not one of these views which he has not repeatedly attacked; and his Introduction, so far as it is not directed against Materialism or Agnosticism, might be described as an attempt to show that all of them are erroneous.
The idealistic philosophy, as it has presented itself from Kant onwards, and especially in Schelling and Hegel, is essentially a philosophy of evolution. Hence it has given a great stimulus to historical researches; and the study of it naturally led my brother to dwell more and more on the history of doctrine, and subsequently on the general history of religion. His class lectures, so far as they were not devoted to the metaphysical basis of religion, generally took the form of a critical history of the development of dogma in the Church, in which he attempted above all to show that ecclesiastical controversies have contributed to the evolution of truths which were beyond the issues recognized by the contending parties, and that the Church has had a growing life of thought in which nothing was lost. Taking this view of ecclesiastical history, his severest strictures were directed against that prevailing school of modern times which treats the dogmas as a sort of false excrescence upon Christianity, produced by the influence of Greek philosophy, and which seeks to get rid of them all by a return to the primitive Gospel of Jesus. He held that such a view was directly opposed to the conception of Christianity as containing in it a principle of universal religion: a principle, therefore, which was able to assimilate all elements of thought and life, whether derived from Greek, or Jewish, Latin, or German sources, and to make them the means of its own development. He main tained that Christianity is a religion not revealed once for all, but one which has been ever growing and showing greater powers, the more new elements it has absorbed. And it was, of course, involved in this, that the development of doctrine is still advancing, and in a freer and fuller manner than during the early Greek and the Scholastic age, when it was hampered by a mechanical belief in authority. Nay, he would have allowed and contended that it has to submit to a transformation and new birth through idealistic philosophy, if it would maintain itself in the modern world.
These convictions are expressed, among other places, in a lecture delivered at the opening of the new University Buildings on Gilmorehill in 1870, which he described as “A Plea for a Scientific Theology,” and which ends with the following words:
“ Let us then rise to the true dignity of our vocation as scholars and theologians; and that will we do only by absolute, unreserved, self-denying loyalty to truth. Reverence even for the most sacred of books does not require that we refrain from examining into its credentials, and into the evidence and rational significance of its contents. Still less does reverence for the theologians of the past imply that we abstain from subjecting their opinions to the test of minute and careful examination—from bringing the best lights of philosophy, science, logic, to bear on their construction of the teaching of Scripture, and refusing to accept at their hands a single proposition which is not so justified. It is no arrogance to hold that the theological inquirer of our day is in a better position than they for the construction of a true theological system. We do not presume to be wiser or better men than they, because we can profit by their labours, and see a little further by their help. We have means and appliances at our command, too, which no earlier age of inquirers has possessed. Philological and historic criticism has in our day made great advances. Inquiries into the authenticity and structure of ancient documents, the limit of their authority, and the principles of their interpretation, are now conducted in a far more thorough, sifting, and, at the same time, more liberal, tolerant, and truly scientific spirit, than in former times. Physical science has in many directions made vast strides since the latest of our Creeds and Confessions were constructed, and so enabled us to remodel our views of the conditions of inspiration, and the limits of Scripture teaching outside of the province of moral and religious truth. Finally, the complexion of a theological system depends greatly on the philosophical and logical method and categories of thought which we bring to its construction; and surely we may hold, without presumption, that the logic and philosophy of our day are in advance of that contentless scholastic logic and barren nominalism, which cumbered the earth when most of our traditional creeds and systems were being built up. May we not, then, enter on our labours with no unhopeful spirit? Need we fold our hands as if the work of the theologian were ended, and that ever-growing progress and freshness of results, which is the stimulus and reward of intellectual labour in every other sphere of thought, were here no longer possible—as if the last stone had been already placed on the temple of truth, the last sheaf gathered from the Master's field? No, it is not so. Long has the Church's labour been; but the great living temple that has been slowly rising through the ages is still far from complete; and where, on its stately walls and uprising towers, hands that can work no more have left off to build, we are now called to resume and carry on the noble task. The field where generations of reapers have gathered in such rich results is still waving luxuriant with a perennial harvest of thought; and still to the youngest and latest come of His servants, the Master's voice is calling, ‘Go thou also into the vineyard.’” 6
The same idea is expressed more fully in the Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion, and illustrated in the last chapter of that work by the relation of Christianity to pre-Christian religions. The book ends with the following passage, which I quote at length, because it shows very definitely the general outcome and tendency of my brother's way of thinking:
“What, however, we are here specially concerned to notice, is that the idea of organic development is in no way inconsistent with the claim of Christianity to be regarded as a religion of supernatural or divine origin. There would be some reason for the recoil of Christian feeling from this idea, if it implied that there is nothing more in Christianity than a combination of pre-existing elements, or that its originality consists merely in the reproduction, in a collective form, of ideas contained in the religious and in the philosophical and ethical systems of the ancient world…But such a view of the origin of Christianity is not more historically improbable than it is inconsistent with a true idea of organic development…For in organic development, the new, though presupposing the old, involves the introduction of a wholly original element, not given in the old. Hence we are not to conceive that Christianity could be elaborated out of pre-Christian religions and philosophies, any more than that life could be elaborated out of inorganic matter. To apply this principle to religion, is to assert a relation between Christianity and the earlier stages of man's spiritual history; indeed, unless we suppose the human race to have been annihilated, and a new race, out of all connection or continuity with the former to have been created as the receptacle of the new religion—without some such monstrous supposition, we must think of Christianity as essentially related to the antecedent course of man's spiritual life, and related to it in the way which rational spiritual life by its very nature involves. But the connection of Christianity with the past, which we here assert, is a connection which at the same time involves the annulling and transmuting of the past by a new creative spiritual force. To assert it, therefore, is to hold that Christianity neither borrows nor reproduces the imperfect notions of God, be they what they may—pantheistic, dualistic, anthropomorphic, monotheistic—in which the religious aspirations of the old world had embodied themselves. In the light of this idea, we can perceive these imperfect notions yielding up, under the transforming influence of Christianity, whatever element of truth lay hid in them, whilst that which was arbitrary and false falls away and dies. If, for example, the old pantheistic idea that ‘the things that are seen are temporal,’ and that beneath all the passing shadows and semblances of things, there is an enduring substance, a reality that is ‘without variableness or shadow of turning’—if this idea comes to life again in the Christian consciousness, yet the new Pantheism does not, like the old, suppress, but rather elicits and quickens the individuality, the freedom, the moral life of man. If it says, ‘The world passeth away and the lust thereof,’ it says also, ‘He that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.’ If the antagonism between good and evil which gave Dualism its meaning and power, survives in the Christian view of the world, yet the new Dualism, unlike that of the old religion, is consistent with the belief not only in the ultimate triumph, but also in the sole and absolute reality of good. If it asserts that ‘Sin hath entered into the world, and death by sin,’ yet it declares that, ‘All things work together for good to them that love Him,’ and that a time is coming when ‘God shall be all in all.’ If Christianity claims as its own that idea which anthropomorphic religions oreshadowed—that man is the image of God, and that he is capable of rising into a divine fellowship and of being made partaker of a divine nature; yet, in contrast with the old religions, it raises the human without limiting or lowering the divine, and sees in all earthly goodness a reflexion of the nature of God, without making the nature of God a reflexion of the weakness and imperfections of man. Lastly, if Christianity contains, in common with monotheistic religions, the idea of a God elevated in His absolute being above the world, unaffected by its limits, incapable of being implicated in its imperfections, it yet enables us at the same time to think of God, not merely as an Omnipotent Power and Will above us, but as an Infinite Love within us. It sees in our purest thoughts and holiest actions, God Himself ‘working in us to will and to do of His good pleasure.’ It tells us that our ‘bodies are the temples of His Holy Spirit,’ and it sets before us a human life as the fullest expression and revelation of the nature and life of God. Thus, whatever elements of truth, whatever broken and scattered rays of light, the old religions contained, Christianity takes up into itself, explaining all, harmonizing all, by a divine alchemy transmuting all, yet immeasurably transcending all—‘gathering together in one all things in heaven and earth’ in its ‘revelation of the mystery hid from ages,’ the revelation of the One who is at one and the same time, Father, Son, and Spirit; above all, through all, and in all.”
My brother's lectures were thus throughout inspired by the idea of development, and therein lay both his orthodoxy and heterodoxy. A considerable mass of MS. lectures exist, but not in a form suitable for publication, except so far as the substance of them has been absorbed into his Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion, and his Gifford Lectures. But one sees that he persistently endeavoured to fill the mind of his students with the conviction that truth in theology is not expressible in a definite number of dogmatic statements, but is a growing body of thought, which puts forth new powers in the minds of those who receive it, and is continually ripening to fresh issues. Nor was he unaware—though it may be thought by some that he did not fully allow for it—of the greatness of the transformation which such a process of evolution brings with it. He clung very closely to the forms of the past, even while he was showing the power of the spiritual principle that had produced them to transmute them and give them a new significance.
During his tenure of the Chair he did not take any great part in the general business of the University; but there were one or two occasions on which he exercised his influence. In 1868 he proposed that the degree of D.D. should be conferred on Dr. John M‘Leod Campbell, who had been deposed from the ministry of the Church of Scotland, in 1831, for teaching the doctrine of Universal Pardon, i.e. for maintaining that the mercy of God was not limited to the elect, according to the strict doctrine of Calvinism. In this case it may fairly be said, that the heretic has in the long run converted the Church; for though there has never been any definite act of the Churches of Scotland withdrawing from the positions of the Calvinistic system, the whole doctrine of Election has been allowed to fall into the background, and it would be difficult to find many congregations in Scotland, outside of the Highlands, where it is still preached in the strict form which once was common. Older men may remember times in their youth when they puzzled themselves about the way to attain assurance as to their own election, or whether such assurance was possible; but for all who are open to the influence of thought, the controversy has passed into another stage, in which both the assertion and the denial of such doctrines seem equally irrelevant. Perhaps, in the style of preaching which is now most common, the change has been almost too thorough, as it has taken the direction of a practical kind of discourse that leaves out all reference to deeper theological questions. And there are some still living, who, without being believers in Election or Reprobation, are not sorry that they were educated in a time when the pressure of Calvinism forced them early to begin to think of great questions as to the nature and destiny of man.
My brother rejoiced much to be the means of partially removing a stigma which, by the sentence of the Church, had been left on one of the most pure and saintly of men, who, in his book on the Atonement, had refuted the coarser views of that doctrine, as it were from within, and by the aid of their own presuppositions. Of course the University did not mean by conferring a degree on Dr. Campbell to express any sort of agreement with his special views, but only to recognize the merit of his work as a theologian. But the occasion drew forth many testimonies to the greatness of his influence upon religious thought, notably one from Dr. Ewing, the Bishop of Argyll and the Isles, who published in the Glasgow Herald of May 3, 1868, a letter to my brother, in which he spoke of the act of the University as significant of a great change in the religious life of Scotland, and a recognition that “Revelation is not a mystery superadded to the mysteries of Nature, but a key given to us to unlock those mysteries; that it is a Revelation which commends itself to our reason and conscience, producing faith as the result of this, and not demanding faith on the ground of authority.” Dr. Ewing then goes on to dwell on the light which Dr. Campbell had thrown upon various aspects of Christian doctrine. In his answer, my brother writes (May 8, 1868): “I heartily agree with what you say as to Dr. Campbell's teaching, and its influence on modern theological thought. It is a most hopeful thing that in Scotland, where views of the Atonement based on shallow forensic metaphors have been so long prevalent, the power of a book which starts from the fundamental idea of the Fatherhood of God should have been so widely felt, and the substantial truthfulness of its teaching so widely recognized. At the same time, I am bound to add, that the degree to which you refer, though it may indicate the rise of a wiser and calmer tone of thought as to matters theological than once unhappily existed in this country, is not to be regarded as indicating in the body from which it emanated, any acceptance of Dr. Campbell's theological views. In proposing to the Senate to confer this degree on him, I was obliged to rest my case simply on his recognized position as one of the most able and original theological writers of our day. And in proof of this, I cited testimonies to the great merit of his book from various authorities in England and Scotland. . . On the whole, I think there was but one opinion among my colleagues, that we did honour to ourselves in honouring such a man, a man of so much wisdom and thoughtfulness, and of so pure and blameless a life.”
Dr. Dickson, who succeeded my brother as professor of Divinity, communicates to me the following reminiscences:
Of his main work as Professor—the teaching from the Chair—I had no personal knowledge, for I never had the privilege of hearing him lecture…But the power and stimulus of his teaching needed no other witness than the manifest excitement in the College Courts—the keen interest of the students, as suddenly quickened as it was steadily maintained—the enthusiasm of the moment passing into abiding gratitude for an impress that with many moulded their future. Not a few of the ordinary students of the Church of Scotland continued in regular attendance for a fourth session, which the General Assembly had ceased to require; and the students belonging to other Churches, especially the United Presbyterian, in considerable numbers took classes in the Divinity Hall. In Session 1872-3, if I am not mistaken, half the prizes in the Hall were carried off by these Nonconformist students.
Soon after becoming Professor, Dr. Caird entered with hearty sympathy into a proposal originating with his colleague, Dr. Weir, for the revival of the Degree of B.D. on such a footing that, under the existing circumstances of the Churches and the Universities, the examinations conducted by the Faculty of Theology should be open not only to the students completing their studies in the Divinity Hall of the University of Glasgow, but to graduates of the University in Arts who had taken their theological course in extra-mural Halls recognized by the University Court, without insisting on any condition of further attendance; and he had the satisfaction of seeing this liberal arrangement brought into operation by the Faculty when he was at its head, and crowned thereafter with such success that, during the first thirty years of its working (1866-1896), upwards of 300 candidates have received the new Degree, and of these nearly as many have presented themselves from the extra-mural Halls as from that of the University. Whatever other benefit may have accrued to theological study from the gentle stimulus of the Degree, it is pleasant for any one who has lived through the stormy conditions of the ecclesiastical atmosphere of Scotland during those thirty years, to recall the comparative calm within the University, which enabled it to contribute such an eirenicon.
Dr. Caird also took a special interest in remodelling the regulations for the D.D. Degree. He felt strongly the evils incident to the earlier mode of bestowing it as a matter of favour on private or personal grounds; his position rendered him specially liable to be beset by the importunities, if not of postulants in person, at any rate of their impulsive friends. He was zealous for the honour of the University; he desired that its honorary degrees should be conferred on academic grounds, and should mark contributions to theological literature, of which the University was in a better position to judge than of the discharge of professional duties coming less directly under its cognizance. Accordingly he welcomed a suggestion to give to the Degree a more special character by placing it on the basis of proceeding from M.A. or B.D. to D.D. by undergoing a higher examination or sending in a thesis. The new system underwent a probation of many years: the higher examination, though it led to numerous inquiries, resulted only in two Degrees conferred on that ground (viz., on Professor Orr, now of the United Presbyterian College, and on Dr. M‘Kichan, of the Free Church Mission at Bombay); the requirement of a thesis, which involved incidentally no small correspondence, yielded in many instances such excellent fruits as went far to justify the expectations formed from it; but in others its practical working fell short of those ideals; and a few years ago the Regulations, while substantially retained, were, with the Principal's assent, modified into their present form.
During his tenure of the Divinity Chair he took little part in the ordinary business of the Senate, partly because of the claims and attractions of his professional studies, partly because he had entire confidence in his friend Dr. Weir bringing, as Clerk of Senate, to the conduct of affairs a rare knowledge of the history and constitution of the University, a singularly clear and calm judgment, and a devotion to duty in which its interests were safe. But there was one matter into which he threw himself with zeal, and in which he rendered signal service—the movement which issued in the new buildings at Gilmorehill. He was from the outset an active and not a merely ornamental member of the Subscription Committee—regular in attending its meetings, and ready always to respond to the frequent calls that he should lend personal aid to the deputations that sought to enlist the sympathy of leading citizens. How much of the substantial outcome was due to his special cooperation no one now can tell; but it cannot be doubted that the mere presence of one who held so unique a place in the knowledge and esteem of all the citizens was a potent element of prevailing intercession. This part of Dr. Caird's work, little known probably outside of the Committee (of which few members now survive), in helping to build the very walls within which he was afterwards to reign, ought certainly not to be forgotten.
Before passing from the Hall stage of his work, I should not omit to mention the peculiarly warm interest which he took in his students—his unfailing readiness to aid them with his counsel, the genial sympathy with which he entered into the spirit of their social life, and the steady friendship with which he followed the fortunes of those who had most favourably impressed him, always willing to bear testimony to their merits and to remember their special claims when patrons or congregational committees asked his opinion or desired his recommendation. Nor did his interest in the Hall cease with his tenure of the Chair; he was always desirous to be informed of the names and distinctions of the students whose work had most commended them to my colleagues or myself; and many, not only of his own students, but of their successors year after year, have had more reason than they themselves were often aware of, to be grateful for the Principal's interposing a seasonable word on their behalf.
In 1871, after the University removed from the old College in High Street to the new buildings on Gilmorehill, my brother took the opportunity of reviving the University Chapel. At an earlier time there had existed a regular service for the students, conducted by one of the professors in the Hall of the University; and after that ceased, sittings for the students had been reserved in one of the City churches. On the removal of the University to the new site, my brother proposed that the services should be revived, and that ministers of all denominations of the Christian church in Scotland should be invited to assist. He himself undertook the principal charge of the arrangements of the Chapel, not only during the time when he was professor of Divinity, but during the whole time of his connection with the University. He successively invited to preach before the University the leading ministers of the Church of Scotland, the Free Church, the United Presbyterian Church, and of other less important denominations. In particular, he invited several of the clergy of the Episcopal Church in Scotland to take part in the services, and gave them the option of using their own Liturgy. Among others, Bishop Ewing consented to preach, but was prevented doing so by the objections of the then Bishop of Glasgow. Sermons were, however, preached by various eminent clergymen of the Church of England, by Jowett, Stanley, the present Bishop of Ripon, and others; and also by clergymen of the Church of England in Scotland, who do not own the authority of the Scottish bishops. My brother attached considerable importance to these services, as bringing the students together for worship independently of the special communion to which they might belong, and practically teaching them to regard the points on which they were divided as of comparatively little importance. It was supposed at first that the movement would encounter opposition from the sectarian spirit of some members of the churches; but as a matter of fact no such objection was taken to it, except in the one case I have mentioned, and from some quarters it received high commendation. In particular, a letter was sent to my brother signed by Dean Ramsay and many of the most influential clergy of the Scottish Episcopal Church, thanking him for his liberality in asking members of their communion to preach and conduct the services in the University Chapel, and stating that they “gladly hailed this proposal, as tending to encourage a more kind and friendly feeling between bodies of Christians in this country.”
My brother had always been in the habit of preaching for ministers of other churches than his own, whenever invited to do so; and after the institution of the Chapel services in the University he did so very frequently. He was no churchman, in any exclusive sense; he had, indeed, almost a horror of ecclesiastical politics, and, so far as possible, avoided attending Presbyteries and other Church Courts; and he was almost indifferent to the causes of disagreement between the main denominations into which the Christian church is divided. He was, of course, loyal to the Church of Scotland, and he was in favour of the principle of an Established Church. In a lecture on the “Universal Religion,” delivered in 1874, he says: “The ideal of a Christianized social state would be one in which Church and State would be no longer opposed as separate organizations, but would pass into each other, and become identified in that body politic in which each member lived, suffered, rejoiced, in the life, and suffering, and joy of all the rest.” But apart from this ideal kind of Erastianism, I do not think I remember his expressing any antagonism to other denominations than his own; and if he ever spoke severely, it was of some exhibition of ecclesiastical bigotry in his own, or any other communion. Sometimes such divisions seemed to him rather a subject for humorous treatment; and I remember that once when addressing a United Presbyterian congregation, he gave them almost more liberality than they desired, by declaring that he would not take the trouble to cross the street in order to convert a man from their denomination of Christians to his own.
In 1873, Dr. Barclay, the Principal of Glasgow University, died. He was a man of great vigour and individuality of character, though in his last years his energy was weakened by repeated attacks of illness. He had a somewhat brusque manner of address, and his lion-like growls at anything that displeased him might sometimes scare those who did not understand him; but his unpretending simplicity of character, his humorous directness of utterance, and his geniality and kindliness of nature, endeared him to his colleagues, and to none more than to my brother, with whom he had very close relations of friendship. I still remember the thrill of emotion with which my brother spoke the last words of the funeral sermon, which was preached in the University Chapel. “Farewell, dear and honoured friend! We shall never see thy face, nor hear thy well-known voice again—never till the eternal morning dawn. Be it ours to preserve the recollection and walk in the steps of him, and of all the good and wise who have trod before us the narrow path of duty. May we so live that when life reaches its close we too may look backward, feeling we have not lived in vain, and onward with the same tranquil heart and the same trust in God, to that which lies beyond the veil.”
The appointment to the Principalship is in the hands of the Crown; but on this occasion a petition was sent in by all the members of Senate, begging that the office should be conferred upon Dr. Caird; and on the recommendation of Mr. Bruce, then Home Secretary, he was appointed by Her Majesty to succeed Dr. Barclay, on March 7, 1873. My brother's own feelings regarding it, and his pleasure at the unanimity with which his colleagues had spoken in his favour, were expressed shortly after in the following letter (dated April 7th).
“I am very busy, finishing the duties of my former office, whilst beginning to learn the duties of the new. I am very sorry to give up teaching, for it had become a second nature, and my intercourse with the students and sympathy with their work were a daily delight to me. But my colleagues requested me to offer myself for the vacant office, and sent up a memorial to the authorities, signed by all of them, so I felt I had little choice left in the matter. This fact is a proof to you of what I am happy to say is the case, that we have, in our Senate, so far as my experience goes, always been a unanimous body; I trust my new relation to them will be no interruption to the harmony.
“The Senate have, I believe, the power to require the Principal to teach some subject not embraced in the regular curriculum, and I shall ask them to exercise this power in my case, so that my connection with the practical work of the University may not cease. Besides, there are various ways, such as preaching in the College Chapel on Sundays, delivering addresses on public occasions, etc., in which I may still be of use to the students. In short, I shall try to console myself for having to give up a position for which I was better gifted, I fear, than for the somewhat ornamental office to which I have been transferred. The old Principal, though his tastes and tendencies were different from mine, and his age put a wide gulf between us, was a man for whom I had both respect and liking. I saw much of him in his hours of weakness and trouble; he had a very kindly feeling to me, and so his death makes a great blank. I would fain have escaped from speaking of him in public, but I had to preach, with a sad heart, what is called a funeral sermon.”
Among the various tokens of good will from the divinity students he was leaving, my brother was especially pleased by an address which he received from the Nonconformist students who had attended his class, sometimes in almost as large numbers as the students of the Church of Scotland. It is worth while to quote the words which he used in responding to this address, as they express more fully than he has done anywhere else, his views as to the work of his Chair.
The greatest drawback to my recent preferment is that it cuts me off in a great measure from the work of teaching, and from my connection with the divinity students. For now a good many years past that work has been my daily delight. Not only are the subjects pertaining to the Chair of Divinity thoroughly congenial to me; not only have I felt a deep and growing interest in the great questions of which it is the province of the theological professor to treat, but that interest has been greatly vivified by seeing it reflected in the minds of the students. Many a thorny and intricate problem has been made easier to me by seeing the manner in which it was grappled with by young, acute, and enthusiastic minds. Many a subject which familiarity had begun to deprive of its first interest has had fresh interest rekindled in it, in my own mind, by witnessing the new zest which it awakened in yours. I think I can honestly say that many of the happiest hours of my life are those which I have spent in the class-room; and looking back over the past ten years, and the succession of students who have attended the Divinity Hall, it is a source of pleasure and of pride to me to reflect that I cannot recall a single instance in which there has been any interruption of the most kindly and harmonious relations between the students and myself.
Of course, as a minister of the Established Church I could not fail to feel a special interest in that part of my class which was composed of those who were to be its future clergy. But, gentlemen, I do not utter words of course when I say that it has been a great delight to me to find, year after year, and of late years in increasing numbers, members of other communions enrol themselves among my students. I have felt a peculiar gratification in this, inasmuch as, whilst the other and major part of the class attended mainly as part of the prescribed course of study, and because they could not help it, in your case the attendance was spontaneous; and this was a manifestation of your early adherence to the Voluntary principle which I for one should be the last to take exception to. I could always be sure that you came to the Hall—I would not be so vain or presumptuous as to say, attracted by my poor prelections—but at any rate from real love of the subject, and from a desire, in addition to the teaching of the able and learned professors who constituted your regular instructors in theology, to gain any slight, increasing insight and information which might be derived from hearing the same subjects treated of by a different mind, and from perhaps a somewhat different standpoint. Moreover, I have also felt gratified by your presence in the Divinity Hall, because it seemed to me in no slight measure to conduce to that mutual respect and kindly feeling between the future ministers of the various Churches which it ought to be every good man's aim to promote, and to subvert the hideous spirit of ecclesiastical jealousy and rancour which it ought to be every good man's aim to put down. If the recollections and associations of college days go with us through life, and if, as I myself feel, the friendships which are formed then are through all the future years sometimes the most abiding; then surely, when church divisions or ecclesiastical discussions and conflicts shall range you in opposite ranks with your former fellow-students, it should serve in some measure to infuse a gentler, sweeter, and kindlier spirit into those inevitable differences, to reflect how you once paced side by side the courts of the old College, or sat together on the same benches, and participated in the same studies, ambitions, and generous rivalries of the Divinity Hall.
I shall take leave to add that I have felt a special gratification in your presence in the Divinity Hall, for this further reason, that it seemed to me to furnish at least an approximation to the true conception of a theological seminary. I cannot presume to speak for others, and there may be some here who won't agree with me, but I have never been able to see why theology should be studied in a different way and under other restrictions than science and philosophy. I think it seems to betray a distrust of truth—it has the appearance of conscious weakness in the adherents of any definite theological system—when the professors of science and of philosophy appeal only to the force of reason, while the teachers of theology must needs teach starting from foregone conclusions. Theology is the queen of the sciences, but she abdicates her imperial place when she submits to any other bonds than those imposed by God's word and God's truth. It is at least an approximation towards her glorious liberty and greatness, when theology is taught side by side with other sciences in a great seat of learning, and when the students who repair to the Divinity Hall are the very same students, the same in character and complexion, under no greater restrictions or limitations, of church, or school, or sect, than the students who study philosophy, literature, and science. For these and other reasons which I need not enter upon at present, I feel the deepest gratification in the movement which you have originated, and in the kind and generous and flattering terms you have been pleased to address to me. I shall only say, in conclusion, that there are no friends in the world in whom I have a deeper interest, for whom I feel a stronger affection, and in whose prosperity I feel greater pride, than those students with whom I have been associated in the studies in the Divinity Hall.
My brother had not before his election taken much part in general University business; in fact, he considered himself to have no capacity for details of finance and administration, and up to the date of his appointment as Principal, he showed considerable distaste for them. But, as Chairman of the Senate, and also—in the absence of the Lord Rector who was seldom present—of the University Court, he had to make himself thoroughly acquainted with all matters of importance that came before either body. Also, as the one official of the University who was not identified with any special interest or department of study, he was constantly appealed to by all parties, and had often to mediate between them. I think I may say that during the rest of his life, he thoroughly identified himself with the University, and grudged no labour that was needed to promote its improvement in any way. He was as impartial as any man with strong convictions could well be, and generally withheld his own opinion, and kept his mind open for the consideration of anything that might modify it, till he had heard all that was to be said by others. He strove much to be fair to all parties, and was inclined to give the utmost toleration, consistent with order, to the expression of all views, even those most opposed to his own. It is impossible, and is not part of my task, to give a history of University politics during the time when my brother was Principal, yet anything short of this could hardly show the extent to which he devoted his time and thought to any important movement connected with the University. They were years of great agitation in University life, during which, in the University Council and elsewhere, violent attacks were made upon the Senate, which, till the passing of the University Bill, was entrusted with the principal control of the finances and the general administration of the University, as well as with the regulation of the teaching and discipline. And the professors themselves were much divided as to the policy to be adopted. After the appointment of the University Commission, and the reconstitution of the University Court, with increased power and increased representation both of the graduates and of the civic authorities, there was much discussion as to the various ordinances passed by the Commissioners, and frequent collision of interests and opinions, in the Senate, the Court, and the General Council of the University. In most of these matters my brother sought, so far as possible, to act as moderator, and to avoid identifying himself with any party, and only expressed his own opinion when the question seemed to him vital. It was not without severe self-control that he was able, as he did at least in the majority of cases, to maintain the balance and avoid being carried away by his personal sympathies. He did not pass through these years without many hours of severe mental anxiety, and often he suffered greatly from loss of sleep when matters of importance were weighing on his mind. This trouble grew with advancing years, when his power of throwing off the burden of the day sensibly diminished, and he also found it more difficult to come to a decision in cases where there were conflicting reasons. Yet his self-command was such that, to those who saw him in public, he almost always seemed quite clear and calm.
One of the functions of the University Court is to elect new professors, except in a few cases where the appointment is reserved for the Crown; and as Chairman, the Principal had often to take a leading part in such elections. In fact, he considered this as perhaps the most important part of his duties, and he took endless pains to inform himself as to the merits of the candidates, and to guide the Court to a right decision. Especially where the subject of the Chair was one on the qualifications for which he felt himself able to form a clear and definite opinion, he was immovable in his resolution to carry the man he approved, and threw all his energy and influence into the scale. It cost him a good deal to do this; for he was not one who loved conflict with others, or rejoiced in victory over them. But he felt that to get really strong men for the teaching of the University was more than any measure of reform in its machinery that could be devised.
Without going into disputed questions in the recent policy of the Scottish Universities, it would be impossible to indicate all the subjects in which he especially interested himself; but I may mention one or two points which have now got beyond the reach of controversy. He felt a deep interest in the movement for the higher education of women, and took every opportunity of pleading publicly for the extending to them all the privileges of the University. He was unwearied in the discussion of the well-worn commonplaces as to the capacity of women for such education, and its importance to them. Perhaps I may venture to recall the fact that many years ago, before my brother was Principal, I had the pleasure of voting with him in the Senate, in a minority of two, in opposition to a proposal to petition Parliament against some Bill that favoured the admission of women to medical degrees. The debate about the education of women generally, as well as about their medical education, gradually wore itself out in the long period between 1867, when the first steps in the direction of such education were taken in Glasgow, and 1889 when the University Bill was passed; and the clause in that Bill empowering the Commissioners to open up all degrees in arts and medicine to women was accepted as settling the matter, without, so far as I know, a dissentient voice. My brother did all in his power to bring about this result, and also took a great part in the subsequent negotiations which led to the incorporation of Queen Margaret College with the University.
The University of Glasgow has always had close relations with the City, and throughout its history has received steady support and aid in every difficulty from the Municipality, and from the leading merchants and business men of the community. In particular, its removal to the new buildings in 1870 was made possible by the munificent contributions of the citizens; and since that date, it has received many gifts and bequests from individuals. In fact, it is to the City mainly that the University owes its having been able to keep pace to some extent with the growing scientific and educational demands of the new time; and the re-constitution of the University Court, which makes the Provost and another representative of the Town Council its members, has also done something to make the connection more intimate. My brother always regarded it as of the utmost importance to maintain the good feeling that ought to accompany such an alliance between the University and the great City of which it is a part, and his long friendship with many of the leading men of business and civic officials rendered it easier for him to do this. Especially his readiness to respond to calls upon his time, and to speak for civic objects, or on great civic occasions, must have done much to make the City take pride in its University, and interest itself in its credit and success.
His position as Principal separated him in some degree from the general body of the Professors, and except on one occasion, when he undertook during an interval the duties of one of the Theological Chairs, he never directly took part in the regular instruction of the students. But he endeavoured in other ways to bring himself into relation with them, especially by preaching, several times in each session, in the University Chapel, and generally conducting its devotional services, even when other clergymen preached. He was also in the habit of delivering a regular address to the students at the opening of each session, on some subject connected with the studies of the University or with studies, such as those of History or Art, which he desired to introduce into it; or again on the life and character of some prominent writer, who might be regarded as a representative of such studies—on Spinoza, Bacon, Hume, Butler, Galileo, etc. The most important of these have been collected in the volume of University Addresses, published last year, a volume which also contains specimens of the less formal addresses which he gave at the close of the Graduation ceremonies with which each session ended. In these he usually chronicled the benefactions made to the University during the year preceding, took notice of any important changes in the history of the University, especially of the death or retirement of professors and the election of their successors, and concluded with some advice and exhortation to graduates and under-graduates in reference to some aspect of their academic life. These addresses did at least something to cultivate in the students that feeling of corporate unity, which, owing to circumstances, and especially to the absence of anything like the collegiate life of Oxford and Cambridge, has generally been less strong in the Scottish Universities than in England. A good many events happened during his tenure of office which tended in the same direction: the institution of the Students' Representative Council, the building of the Union, the foundation of new University Societies in connection with the principal studies of the place; and in all of these he took a lively interest. He had much to do with the efforts made, and generally made successfully, to enlist the services of the students themselves in the maintenance of order in the public ceremonies of the University.
Of his relations to his colleagues in the Court and Senate, it is hardly for me to speak, but many members of these bodies have spoken for themselves. The Principal in a Scottish University is a primus inter pares, and he can only act with effect if he gains their support and confidence. And the colleagues he had were many of them men of whom any University might be proud. To name only those who are no longer living, and of whom it is possible to speak more freely, there were among the Professors that embodiment of τὸκαλόν in all its senses—Edmund Law Lushington,
Wearing all that weight of learning,
Lightly like a flower;
John Nichol, the best of lovers and haters, whose ardent and aspiring genius is only inadequately represented to those who did not know him by the fine literary and poetic work which he has left; Duncan Weir, the strong and modest teacher and wise counsellor, who, if he had lived to prepare for publication the lectures he gave to his pupils, would have been recognized as one of the greatest Hebrew scholars of the day; Allen Thomson, known in his time as one of the best anatomists of the country, and one of the most sagacious counsellors in the affairs of the University; John Veitch, the editor of Sir William Hamilton's works, who varied his vigorous prelections on Logic by sympathetic studies of the life and history of the Scotch Borders; James Roberton, whose great legal and historical learning were not more remarkable than his genuine kindliness of nature; George MacLeod, distinguished alike as a surgeon and a teacher; James Thomson, in whom scientific originality was combined with singular simplicity and beauty of character; and William Leishman, eminent as a physician and writer on medicine, and full of practical wisdom in the business of the University. Of others no less eminent who are still living, and who, like these, were his friends and mine, I may not speak; those who have been students of the University during the last twenty years will easily supply their names. But I think I may say that the teachers of the whole period of his Principalship did not fall short of the best traditions of the University, and that most of them were united in strong feelings of friendship with its head. Nor could any one have felt a more personal interest in their success, or a deeper sense of the honour of presiding over them, than he.
As to his general conduct of the business of the University, and, in particular, his relation to the University Court, the Senate, and the University Council, which consists of the general body of graduates, I am favoured with the following communication from the Rev. Professor Dickson. After speaking of his addresses to the University and his services in the University Chapel, Dr. Dickson proceeds to say:
These public functions, wherein he was known to all, were far from being the whole, or even the most onerous and important of his services to the University, although there were probably some who measured his work mainly by these occasions, and deemed his position otherwise one of dignified leisure, occupied only with those congenial studies of which the world gladly at intervals received the ripened fruits. His office was no sinecure; from his daily life the cares and responsibilities of business were never absent, although they were but little, if at all, known to the general public. They knew, indeed, that he had the duty of presiding in the meetings of the Council, the Senate, and the Court; but, except in the case of the former, which met but seldom, the proceedings were neither open nor reported, and none but the limited number of members present had means of ascertaining either how much that duty involved, or how it was done. In the Council, which had to deal frequently with questions of University policy on which strong differences of opinion emerged and fell to be discussed by numerous speakers within time-limits practically fixed by the convenience and patience of members, the Chairman had the delicate task of reconciling freedom and order; and none could have brought to it more dignity, fairness, and tact, good-natured tolerance towards at times diffuse or irrelevant talk, and firmness, when necessary, in maintaining the authority of the Chair. In the more important fields of the Senate and Court his presence was more essential and indispensable. Other members might come and go; but he remained at his post, as a rule, from the outset to the end of sittings which often lasted for several hours. Others might absolve themselves from such business as less immediately concerned them; to him nothing academic could be foreign, and he had to make himself conversant beforehand with the bearings of the questions to be discussed. These questions—although I was at one time a member of the Court, I speak mainly from my experience of the Senate—were varied, often complicated and difficult of solution, giving rise to sharp differences of opinion and of action; and, if I may venture to say so, even in that august body there might emerge tendencies to oblivion of the standing orders and to digression or desultory talk, which called for the Chairman's intervention. He brought to the Chair a rare combination of qualities which made his rule as generally acceptable as it was efficient—knowledge of the business to be done, and experience in the conduct of University affairs, a quick appreciation of whatever might be urged on either side, impartiality, unfailing courtesy, and geniality. He was not a mere umpire; he had a vote as well as a casting vote. The former he was often content to give in silence; if he saw fit to justify it, or if he was called to exercise the latter, he stated tersely his reasons. Whether one might or might not agree with his views in any particular case, it was impossible to doubt that they had been formed, and were urged, in what seemed to him the highest interest of the University.
Nor was the action of the Principal confined to these courts in which he presided. Great part of the work of the University was done, or at least prepared, in Committees, of which several were standing, while others were appointed for special purposes as occasion required. Of most of these the Principal was a member in virtue of his office, or by special selection; he was in the habit of regularly attending their meetings, and often took an active part in their work. In the important Committee charged with the management of the Library, of which I was Convener, we seldom missed his presence and counsel throughout the five and twenty years of his reign.
Let me only add that these five and twenty years were by far the most eventful in the history of the University, for they witnessed, over and above the routine of its daily life from session to session, all the discussions raised and changes initiated by two Universities' Commissions (one of Inquiry in 1876, another Legislative and Executive in 1887)—the prolonged concomitant agitation of all manner of academic grievances, real or alleged—the. strenuous warfare long waged between extra-mural and intra-mural interests—the vehement assaults on the administration of the Senate, and the transference of its patronage and financial and executive powers to the Court—new privileges claimed for, and conceded to, the students in the recognition of their Representative Council—the recasting of the whole system of Degrees in Arts, with its introduction of manifold options—the adjustment of the marvellously complicated Ordinances, almost every clause of which had to be fought over in Council, Senate, and Court—the debates over tests and degrees in the Faculty of Theology—the fuller equipment of the Faculty of Law—the creation of a new Faculty of Science—the disposal of questions emerging in the Faculty of Medicine as to the affiliation of Colleges, the relations of clinical to systematic teaching and of the University with the Western Infirmary, and the requirements of the Medical Council—the provision of new Chairs and Lectureships, and the relative development of technical, tutorial, and laboratory instruction—last, but not least, the admission of women as students, and its conditions, whether generally or with special reference to the position of Queen Margaret College. In all of these questions, at most of their phases, Principal Caird was not merely an interested onlooker watching the movements of the great machine entrusted to his care, but an influential agent in shaping and controlling its course. As he loved the University, of which he was proud as an alumnus, and which in its turn was proud of him as its chief, he lived and laboured for it; and to him above all as pars magna belongs the honour of pervading and inspiring its newer life at Gilmorehill.
Up to the time of his appointment as Principal, he had published nothing but Sermons and Addresses. In addition to the volume published in 1858, of which I have spoken, he contributed a number of Essays (which were sermons slightly modified) to Good Words in 1863; and during his Principalship, he from time to time published a number of the Sermons and Addresses which he delivered to the University, especially two on “The Unity and Progressiveness of the Sciences,” which are included in the volume of University Addresses. He also printed various sermons preached on public occasions, among which I may mention a Lecture delivered in Westminster Abbey, on “The Universal Religion,” in 1874; a sermon on “Mind and Matter,” preached before the British Medical Association in 1888; a Funeral Sermon for Principal Barclay in 1873, and two Sermons contributed to the volume of Scotch Sermons, published in 1880. Most of his leisure during his Principalship was, however, given to studies connected with the philosophical basis of theology. In 1878-9, he was appointed to the “Croall Lecture” in Edinburgh, and gave a course upon this subject, which, with considerable alteration, he published in 1880 as an Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion. In 1888 he contributed the volume on Spinoza to the series of Blackwood's “Philosophical Classics.” He had also on various occasions given lectures on the “History of Religions,” two of which, on Brahmanism and Buddhism, were published in 1882.
Of the Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion, after what has above been stated as to his professorial teaching, I need not say much. It is an attempt to work out the idea of the essential rationality of Religion as against Materialism and Scientific Agnosticism; and also against that kind of Agnosticism which arises when the claims of Religion are based upon authority, or even upon the immediate intuitions of feeling. It proceeds, generally following the lines of Hegel, to criticise the ordinary arguments for the being of God; to show wherein consists the real necessity of religion; to trace the development of the religious consciousness, and to exhibit the relation of morality to religion. Finally, it deals with the application of the idea of evolution to religion, and illustrates this theme by considering the relation of Christianity to pre-Christian religions. In a review written immediately after its publication, the late Professor T. H. Green gives a very fair estimate of its contents, with some important criticisms. His general account of the book is that “it represents a thorough assimilation by an eminent Scottish theologian, who is also known as a most powerful preacher and teacher, of Hegel's philosophy of religion. At the same time, it is quite an original work—original, if not with the highest kind of originality, which appears but once in a century, yet with that which shows itself in the independent interpretation and application of a philosophical system very remote from our ordinary ways of thinking. An Englishman to whom the language and prolix technicalities of Hegel's writings—or rather of that ill-organized compilation of notes of lectures in which alone his doctrine is preserved—form a hindrance to profitable study, will here find the essence of what he had to say on the most interesting of subjects, presented by a master of style.” Green, however, goes on to bring against my brother, and perhaps, through him, against Hegel, the charge of too directly identifying, or at least appearing to identify, thought and reality, in a way that does not leave room for their relative difference. In spite of this objection, Green expresses his entire agreement with the fundamental principle of Hegel's idealism, that “the world in its truth or full reality is spiritual,” and that “on any other supposition its unity is inexplicable.” I venture to think the censure thus indicated is not valid against Hegel; and also that it is not valid against my brother, except in so far as he does not always guard sufficiently against a possible misunderstanding of the unity in question, the unity of thought and reality, as if it were simple sameness. On the other hand, I think that Green himself, in this article (as in some passages of his Prolegomena), has lost hold of a truth, of which elsewhere he is one of the most effective exponents, when he allows that “such a knowledge of the spiritual unity of the world, as would be a knowledge of God,” is impossible to us. That, in any case, is a doctrine against which my brother's whole argument is directed, and he could not understand how Green should maintain it, consistently with his own principle that “the world in its full reality is spiritual.” The conviction that God can be known, and is known, and that in the deepest sense all our knowledge is knowledge of Him, was the corner stone of his theology. “Religion,” he declares at the end of the first chapter of the Introduction, “by its very nature contains, and must ever contain, an element of mystery, but a religion all mystery is an absurd and impossible notion. Finite intelligence cannot be the measure of the infinite. The realm of truth is inexhaustible, and the highest human intelligence at its furthest point of progress and of spiritual knowledge must still see stretching away before it the region of the unknown, the unfathomable depths of that Being before whom the befitting attitude must ever be that of humility, of reverence, of awe, and aspiration. But it is obvious that these emotions owe their existence and their strength to the fact that their object is contemplated as something more than the unknown; and that we must conceive of that in Him which lies beyond our knowledge, as, though unknown, not unknowable…In the presence even of finite excellence, we may be conscious of feelings of deep humility and silent respectful admiration; and this, too, may be reverence for the unknown. But that which makes this reverence a possible and a wholesome feeling, is that it is reverence not for a mere blank inscrutability, but for what I can think of as an intelligence essentially the same as my own, though far excelling mine in its range and power: and the salutary humility which possesses me in the presence of such minds arises from the fact that I know, and can appreciate, the thing they are, and that I see in it that which dwarfs my own petty attainments. In like manner, the grandeur that surrounds the absolute, the infinite reality beyond the finite, can only arise from this, not that it is something utterly inconceivable and unthinkable, but that it is for thought or self-consciousness the realization of its highest ideal of spiritual excellence. The homage rendered to it is that which is felt for a being in whom ‘are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.’”
The little book on Spinoza, in Blackwood's “Philosophical Series,” was somewhat marred by a miscalculation. After my brother had completed his MS., he found that he had written it on too large a scale for the series. He was therefore compelled to mutilate it by omitting the life of Spinoza. As it stands, the volume contains, besides careful studies on the predecessors of Spinoza, a very full and thorough examination and criticism of the Ethics. I do not know any book upon the Ethics where the task is more adequately performed. My brother had always been drawn to Spinoza by strong sympathy with the main tendency of his thought. In his sermons, from “Religion in Common Life” onwards, we found him combating the tendency to make hard and fast divisions between different aspects or elements of human life—between the secular and the sacred, between the church and the world, between the moral and the religious life. And when he became a teacher of theology, he reacted in the same way against the fixed division set up between philosophy and theology, faith and reason; and made it his endeavour to show that a faith which has not reason implicit in it, is a dead faith. Now in Spinoza he seemed to find the great philosophical corrective of this tendency “to split the world in two with a hatchet.” Some writers have treated Spinoza as the representative of a Pantheism in which all finite being is submerged; others have seen in his Deus sive Natura, a denial of all divinity but nature, and in his twofold attributes, an anticipation of the popular scientific dualism of the day. What my brother saw in him was the great opponent of all theories that divide God from the world or the world from God; and so, in the language of Schelling, tend “to make nature godless, and God unnatural.” He saw in him a philosopher inspired with the great idea that the distinctions of the finite world which are recognized by the ordinary consciousness, though they have their meaning and value, are none of them absolute; that there are none of them which the unity does not embrace and explain. In other words, he saw in Spinoza the great teacher of the organic view of the world, as a real unity through all the distinction of its parts and as maintaining its identity in all their change and conflict. At the same time, he admits the defects of Spinoza's logic, and particularly, the one great defect, that while his demonstration of the relativity of all forms of the finite is complete, his way of showing the reality of those forms, as attributes and modes of the infinite substance, is arbitrary and inadequate. Thus there is a kind of excuse for those who assert that, according to Spinoza, all is lost in God but nothing is found in Him; that He is not a living God who manifests Himself in and to His creatures, but a characterless substance, of which nothing can be said but that it is, and that it alone is.
This balanced view of Spinoza's philosophy is summed up in the following paragraph: “The last word of Spinoza's philosophy seems to be the contradiction of the first. Not only does he often fluctuate between principles radically irreconcilable, but he seems to re-assert at the close of his speculations what he had denied at the beginning. The indeterminate infinite, which is the negation of the finite, becomes the infinite which necessarily expresses itself in the finite, and which contains in it, as an essential element, the idea of the human mind under the form of eternity. The all-absorbing, lifeless substance, becomes the God who knows and loves Himself and man with an infinite “intellectual love.” On the other hand, the conception of the human mind as but an evanescent mode of the infinite substance, whose independent existence is an illusion, and which can become one with God only by ceasing to be distinguishable from God, yields to that of a nature endowed with indestructible individuality, capable of knowing both itself and God, and which, in becoming one with God, attains to its own conscious perfection and blessedness. The freedom of man, which is at first rejected as but the illusion of a being who is unconscious of the conditions under which, in body and mind, he is fast bound in the toils of an inevitable necessity, is reasserted as the essential prerogative of a nature which, as knowing itself through the infinite, is no longer subjected to finite limitations. The doctrine of a final cause or ideal end of existence, which was excluded as impossible in a world in which all that is, and as it is, is given along with the necessary existence of God, is restored in the conception of the human mind as having in it, in its rudest experience, the implicit consciousness of an infinite ideal, which, through reason and intuitive knowledge, it is capable of realizing, and of the realization of which its actual life is the process. At the outset, in one word, we seem to have a pantheistic unity in which nature and man, all the manifold existences of the finite world, are swallowed up; at the close an infinite self-conscious mind, in which all finite thought and being find their reality and explanation.”7
On the other hand, as the writer goes on to contend, there is a point of view from which “the contradictions under which Spinoza's thought seems ever to labour can be regarded as the accident of an unconscious struggle after a deeper principle in which they are solved and harmonized. In the light of that principle we can speak with him of an indeterminate and infinite unity, in which all finite distinctions lose themselves, and with him we can see that there is no paradox in the assertion that ‘he who loves God, does not desire that God should love him in return.’ We can discern, at the same time, a profound meaning in those apparently mystical utterances in which he seems to gather up the final result of his speculations—‘God loves Himself with an infinite intellectual love’; ‘God in so far as He loves Himself loves man’; ‘the intellectual love of the mind to God is part of the infinite love wherewith God loves Himself’; ‘the love of God to man, and the intellectual love of man to God, are one and the same.’”8
In the last ten years of his life, my brother's mind turned to the idea of writing a book, in which the principles laid down in the Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion should be applied to the main doctrines of Christianity, and the attempt made to show that each of them is the expression of a truth which can be rationally explained and vindicated. He had already made some studies in this direction when he was chosen by the Senate to be Gifford Lecturer for Session 1890-91. In that Session he delivered twelve lectures, in which he attempted to show the truth of the Christian ideas of God, and His relation to the world. It was for him, as I have already indicated, no unwelcome limitation that, by the terms of the Gifford Bequest, he was called on to discuss the subject without reference to any authority but reason. Owing to various causes, he was not able to lecture during the two following years, in which the Gifford Lectureship was held by the late Professor Wallace; but in 1896 he continued his prelections, taking up one after another of the Christian doctrines. He had in this way delivered eight lectures, when a paralytic stroke rendered it impossible for him to go on.
In the previous year he had had a good deal of harassing University business, and the additional effort of writing and delivering the lectures was too much for him; he had indeed complained once or twice before his seizure of increased difficulty in thinking and writing. The stroke mainly affected his left leg, and he gradually recovered sufficient strength to be able to walk about slowly; but he never completely got over the effects of it. In particular he was never able in any way to review or revise his Gifford Lectures, as up to the time of his death he hoped to do. They are now published as they came from his pen, with only a few necessary corrections. They have the defects of words written to be spoken and heard, rather than to be read. Some points of importance to the argument are left undeveloped, others are repeated more than once, and occasionally the rhetorical form prevails over the didactic. It is probable that, as in the case of the Croall Lectures, my brother, had he lived longer, would have rewritten them as chapters of a book, and greatly modified the form in which they were given as lectures. At the same time, they contain much that is fresh and valuable, especially on the ethical bearings of Christian doctrine; and they express so fully his leading thoughts, that I could have no hesitation in publishing them. What Green said of the Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion is true also of them. The line of argument followed is not, in the highest sense, original; it is in the main Hegelian, though not by any means following Hegel slavishly; the thought has been thoroughly assimilated and recast in the writer's mind, and is developed with the same lucidity and beauty of expression and fulness of illustration which are characteristic of his other writings. In a letter to a friend who had expressed some admiration of one of these lectures, he says:— “I have just got your kind note and can only thank you for your cheering and encouraging words very heartily. It is very little, I am profoundly sensible, that my poor talk can do; but I shall be satisfied, if it leads some few who are in doubt on the highest matters, to see that Christianity and Christian ideas are not contrary to reason, but rather in deepest accordance with both the intellectual and moral needs of man.”
In the Summer vacation that followed his paralytic seizure, my brother thought seriously of resigning the office of Principal, but the improvement of his health was such, that he finally resolved to delay his retirement a little longer. During the whole of next session he was able to attend the meetings of the University Court and the Senate, and generally to discharge almost all his official duties; and at its close he gave his usual address9 with all his former fire and energy. These, however, were the last words he spoke in public. Throughout the summer he seemed to retain all the strength he had gained, but he did not make decided progress. His weakness in walking remained, and he did not feel able for any consecutive intellectual work; and, in the beginning of next session, 1897-98, he made up his mind to resign, unless some definite improvement should take place. In February, 1898, he had an attack of dangerous illness of an inflammatory kind which, however, proved to be connected with some more deeply seated evil. His vigorous constitution so strongly resisted the progress of the disease that, after being twice at the point of death, he revived, and seemed on the way to recovery. In July he had rallied so far that he could be removed to Greenock, where he intended to settle; but the effort proved too great, and he sank under a recurrence of illness on the morning of July 30th, within a week after his arrival at Dungourney, the residence of his brother Colin. He had some time previously sent in to the University Court his resignation of the office of Principal, but the date fixed for his demission of office was July 31st, so that in effect he died still Principal of the University of Glasgow. He is buried in the Greenock Cemetery.
In the summer of 1897 he had written to a friend who made some inquiries about his illness: “It does not interest me much to write of myself or my ailments; but I may say that I had last winter a paralytic affection of the left side, which arrested my power of walking, but did not affect my power of speaking, nor, so far as I can judge, of thinking. I am slowly recovering the former power, but as yet can only walk with the aid of a friendly arm, and even then in a limping fashion. Take it any way, this is the first distant note for me of the ringing-in bell; and though I cling to the thought of going on with my familiar and much loved work for a little longer, I am aware that it can be but for a little, and I am trying to meet the inevitable issue, if not with anything of the feeling you quote from Archer Butler, yet without perturbation or dread. I have felt, not only during my illness, when thinking was impossible, but often even when the mind was free from all physical disability, the necessity which you express of falling back on the simplest and most practical religious thoughts; and one of such thoughts I have tried to express in one of the undelivered Gifford Lectures. Perhaps, though, it is too long for a letter. You will forgive my quoting it, as it is easier to quote than to express anew.” My brother proceeds to quote the last paragraph of his Gifford Lectures, and then goes on as follows: “There are many simple ideas like this, which have the special value, I think, of implying no painful effort of memory to bring them up when the mind is beclouded and the will unnerved by illness. But I must not run on longer on such themes, lest the imperfect MS. should betray the imperfect thinking, and show that my illness has not been so purely physical as I above averred. I am only too glad to think, though I can scarcely understand it, that any poor words of mine should have helped to comfort and strengthen you in times of suffering.”
Among the many tributes to his memory, which were written at the time of his death, I think the one which most nearly expresses the truth is the following from his old colleague and friend, Sir William Gairdner:
Of Principal Caird I may say that, notwithstanding his great reputation as an orator, no man ever crossed my path in life who impressed me more as a character of great simplicity and, I would almost say, homeliness, absolutely without affectation or parade, and, if not unconscious of his great gifts—which, indeed, he could not possibly be—yet in all ordinary human intercourse behaving as if he were unconscious of them—a common man among common men: universally revered, and, by those who knew him well, deeply loved, but never under any circumstances self-asserting or obtrusive. He was, indeed, by nature almost a shy man; and in everything that he did and said you came at once to feel that if anyone else could have done it nearly as well he would at once have gladly stood aside and yielded position as to an equal or a superior. I have seen and heard his hand and voice tremble in the announcement of a common piece of University discipline; the most splendid orator of his day, afraid to use words lest they should be found not exactly fitted for their purpose.
Nothing was ever more clear to me, in almost forty years of close intimacy with him as professor and principal, than that John Caird used his great gifts (as Tennyson says of the linnet's singing) because he must; and that, not with a view to himself at all, but to much higher and nobler ends. It was, indeed, this entire absence of self-seeking—and by this I mean not only unselfishness in the ordinary sense of the word, but also great inborn modesty and unobtrusiveness in all the things for which men strive and assert themselves—that gave to his oratorical efforts their greatest charm to those who knew the man. He was conscious—as it appeared—only of the high matters with which he dealt, not of the person who was the instrument of dealing with them. In a very real sense of the words, you would have said that, as a preacher, his “life was hid with Christ in God.”
And so, in more ordinary matters, down even to after-dinner speeches, it might be plainly perceived that the great orator had no sense of his own importance, but only aimed at discharging a duty—often a duty irksome to him, and which he would rather have avoided—so as to secure some higher—often the very highest—end. That, I think, is the key to Principal Caird's character and his life. All men know the outcome, whether in the pulpit, the professor's chair, or as the administrative head of the University. There may be differences of opinion as to the absolute value of that outcome. Some may think that his theology was too broad—others, that it was inadequate. Of that I am no judge. But of one thing I can speak with the most full assurance. In all that he said, or thought, or did, Principal Caird was manifestly under the guidance of a higher spirit than that of most of us. He preached, and prayed, and lectured, and went about his work of ruling and administration, alike under a very noble and exalted idea of duty. Thus he was able—nay, he felt obliged, at times—to do and to say things that traversed the cherished views of other men. Yet he made no enemies, because everyone was satisfied that he was doing his duty and no more.
Of my brother's character and predominant tendencies of mind, it is not easy for me to speak, and they are perhaps sufficiently indicated in the foregoing sketch of his life. He was a man of great simplicity and directness of nature, with a strong love for what is beautiful, and an equally strong aversion to what is artificial and conventional. He was an essentially pure-minded man, to whom no one could speak of anything doubtful or equivocal. He was reserved, and generally disinclined to any but indirect expressions of feeling; and one might say he had freer utterance of himself when he was addressing a general audience through the pulpit, than in his private intercourse with individuals. In consequence of his position as a clergyman, and afterwards as Principal, he had to live a good deal in general society; but he was never so happy as when he could get away from its demands, to enjoy the companionship of his brothers, or of a few intimate friends, such as Dr. Watson or Professor Weir. He had a keen enjoyment of natural beauty, and till he was disabled by illness, his greatest pleasure was to take long walks in the country, in the wild mountainous scenery of the Highlands, along the varied banks of the Clyde, or among the hills and valleys of the border country. He was, I think, the most modest man I ever knew in his estimate of his own abilities and acquirements; and his great power as a speaker never seemed to awake in him any feeling of self-satisfaction. It was, indeed, so habitual, and, I might say, natural to him to move men by his gift of speech, that he never seemed to attach any special importance to it. On the other hand, he was apt to idealize and overestimate the gifts of others, especially if they had any knowledge or ability which he did not himself possess. He was a very sensitive man, and towards the end of his life he was easily harassed and disturbed by anything that did not go to his mind; but he had so much self-control and power of keeping his own counsel, that few except his most intimate friends were aware of it.
In his intellectual life, what was perhaps most remarkable was his gradual but continuous progress from youth to age. Thrown early into the active work of a minister, which was made more trying and exacting by the great effect of his speaking, he was not, like many clergymen in similar cases, content to rest with the attainments he brought from the University. He was, on the contrary, almost contemptuous of his own acquirements, and possessed with an ideal which kept him continually reading and thinking up to the last. Hence it is not wonderful that he passed through many stages of growth. Beginning with a strong faith in the Christian creed in the form in which he had received it from his earliest teachers, he never ceased to hold by what he conceived to be essential to Christianity; and his increasing knowledge of philosophy and theology did not undermine his first conclusions, though it awoke a desire for some rationale or explanation of them. And this again modified the original form of his beliefs; among other things it rendered him increasingly indifferent to all but what he considered the vital issues of Christianity. He tended to concentrate his thoughts upon the leading aspects of truth, and to let secondary matters drop into the background. He could hardly understand, and had almost no sympathy for, those who attached great value to special religious practices, or questions of the government and the outward organization of the church. Controversies about ritual, about the theory of the Sacraments, even about the miraculous, seemed to him of secondary importance, and could not interest him deeply. This tendency to concentrate upon what seemed to him the great issues of the Christian faith—upon the love of God and the revelation of Him to, and in, man—was characteristic of his preaching even from the first, though it was modified by later studies of theology, which taught him to see meaning and value in doctrines which had at first seemed to him of less practical import.
With the increase of his knowledge and power of thinking, there came also a gradual advance in his powers of expression, both in writing, and, I think, also in speaking. For I do not agree with those who speak of my brother's earlier preaching as the best. Some of the fervour of youth had, indeed, evaporated, and the vehemence of utterance and gesture had abated; but I think there was a gain in weight and in impressiveness which more than compensated the loss. In any case, there can be no question as to the greater comprehensiveness of thought and literary beauty of expression in his later sermons and lectures. I believe that any one who compares the volume of University Sermons with those published at an earlier time will be sensible of this, though the full effect of either could only be appreciated by those who heard them.
He was essentially a speaker, and even when he wrote, there was in the flow of the sentences something that reminded one of spoken words. His powers of thought and imagination seemed always to be working towards such an arrangement and exposition of his theme as would be effective in addressing an audience. As a thinker, he had not perhaps the highest kind of originality, but he never simply repeated the ideas of others, or uttered anything that he had not made his own. The thoughts he assimilated from others were those for which his own intellectual development had prepared him, and which therefore he could carry on to further issues. And—as I have already said more than once—it was the ethical bearing of his principles that his mind seemed to grasp most firmly, and which he showed most resource in evolving and illustrating.
Verachte nur Vernunft and Wissenschaft, Des Menschen aller höchste Kraft,… So hab' ich dich schon unbedingt, says Mephistopheles of Faust.
Cf. the Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion, p. 71, where he shows that this distinction is really a subterfuge.
It seems to me a failure in reasonable conduct, that one who is confirmed in faith should not seek to understand what he believes.
I have tried to give some of his evidence in my volume on Hegel (in Blackwood's “ Philosophical Series”), p. 25 seq.
Hegel's Address at the opening of his Lectures in Berlin, in 1818. Werke, vi., p. xl.
Introductory Addresses, delivered at the opening of the University of Glasgow, Session 1870-71, pp. 41, 42.
Spinoza, p. 303 seq.
Spinoza, p. 314.
The last Address in the volume of University Addresses.