We are all apt to be dazzled by the talents of men, while we
think little of the fashion in which they are used. But God, who is supreme,
judges a man simply and solely according to the faithfulness with which he
employs the gifts committed to him. Under these circumstances, some lessons of
value might be learned from the life of an humble townsman of ours who has
lately passed from among us.
John Brackenridge was born in Maybole in 1810. He enlisted as
a soldier in the 74th Highlanders in 1837. He was converted in Dublin in 1848.
He was discharged from the army, after 15 years’ service, in 1852. He became
Post-runner to the Minishant district, a position which he held
for 22 years. He retired from the postal service in 1874, died in 1885, arid his
body now rests in the New Cemetery, awaiting the Resurrection. The great event
in his life, as in everybody’s life, was his conversion to God. What
led to it was his wife’s death. She had been a true Christian, and died happy;
and this circumstance, joined with his own darkness and loneliness, made him
turn to the Saviour who had supported her as she had walked through the dark
valley. Verily, "it is a blessed blow that brings a man to his knees!"
John Brackenridge always dated his life from his conversion.
He brought the event forward in all his addresses. It was the event of
his life for him. And there must be few in our town who have not heard him make
some such declaration as this :—" I was brocht to see that I was a poor
sinner, fit only for the burning; but the blessed Saviour died for me; and God
saved me in the year ‘48, and pardoned 38 years’ sin. Glory to His
John was a pronounced Christian. Nobody had ever any
difficulty in knowing which side he was on. And this was the secret of the
influence he had. For it is only pronounced men that have power over others.
Neutrals are of no use in a time of war, and this life is a time of war.
Then, John was not only a whole-hearted Christian, but a happy-hearted
one. His life was a sermon on the text, "Rejoice evermore." His
religion agreed with him. Who of us, for instance, has not heard John
singing heartily, if not melodiously, as he trudged home from Minishant in the
evenings, "The Lord ‘s my Shepherd," or "He took me from a
fearful pit" —or who has not listened to the nightly Family Worship
ascending from his humble home in School Vennal, in days gone by? It was
rejoicing John, thanking God for his goodness to Him, and gladly confessing His
Name before men.
John had no bitterness in him. He was often insulted
by those who thought themselves above him, but he never retaliated, or bore a
grudge. Many a time did he pass a word of commendation on others, but never a
word of condemnation. For he lived in a region above criticism, which is a very
profitable region to live in.
John was no scholar or orator, but he had a homely
directness, and disregard of conventionality, which was refreshing. Who, for
instance, cannot imagine him addressing the Sabbath Scholars—" Boys,
there will be no weeping at my funeral, for when the mools are falling on
my coffin lid, I‘ll be waving a palm branch in heaven!" Or, who cannot
remember his favourite theological emblem—" Some folks are confused about
the persons of the Trinity, but you may see them clear in a candle: God is the
tallow, Christ is the wick, and the Holy Spirit is the lowe. And it needs
all three to form a whole candle"? Or, who cannot recognise his voice at
the street corner—" Everything’s up, ye noo, friends. Paraffin oil ‘s
up a halfpenny a bottle, but. the grace of God ‘s the same as ever—without
money and without price"? Or, finally, who cannot fancy him rushing into a
grocer’s shop for candles, and explaining his haste thus—" God is to be
in oor hoose at aicht o’clock, and I wouldn’t like to keep Him
waiting"? I confess, too, I like his quaintly humorous reason for being
always punctual at. religious meetings—" We should wait on God, but we
shouldn’t keep Him waiting on us."
In what he considered his Master’s interest, John knew no
fear. He went down on his knees in the most unlooked— for quarters, and spoke
out his mind to all and sundry.. Being asked one day to share in a meal that was
going on, he first inquired whether God’s blessing had been asked on. it, and
on being told that it was not, he boldly but truthfully said—" Man, you
are just like the little pig at your door,. that kens nae better." And
once, on a man saying to him,, "John, you say you are a converted man, and
a new creature, but I don’t see any difference between you and myself."
John at once replied, "I‘ll let you see the differ";. and
falling on his knees, he poured out his soul in prayer to God for this
unbeliever, and then turned to him and said—" Now, sir, go down on your
knees and pray to your Father, as I have prayed to mine." The man
acknowledged the "differ" between them by declining the challenge.
John was sometimes accused of being a hypocrite, but he. was
too simple-minded for that. To say that he was imperfect is merely saying that
he was human. But as to his. honesty, I feel inclined to back him in his own
"If you think I don’t live what I am saying, come and
stay in my hoose for a fortnicht and see for yourselves."
The great fault of John, according to many, was that he was too religious.
No matter what you spoke to him about, the talk was sure to end in
religion. But is that a fault? John, I am told too, never took a draught of
water without thanking God for it. Was that foolish? Friends, it is in such
fashion they live in heaven. And I am confident that, lightly regarded as he was
here, he is better appreciated where he is, and that, I believe, we shall
find when God in His mercy calls us to the Home to which John has gone before