Principal Cairns eBook

John Cairns (Presbyterian)
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 154 pages of information about Principal Cairns.
debate took place on the Spiritual Independence of the Church, then the most burning of all Scottish public questions.  The position of the Non-Intrusion party in the Established Church was maintained by Cairns’s friend Clark, while he himself led on the Voluntary side.  The debate lasted two nights, and, to quote the words of one who was present, “Cairns in reply swept all before him, winning a vote from those who had come in curiosity, and securing a large Liberal majority.  Amidst a scene of wild enthusiasm we hoisted his big form upon our shoulders, and careered round the old quadrangle in triumph.  Indeed he was the hero of our College life, leaving all others far behind, and impressing us with the idea that he had a boundless future before him."[3]

[Footnote 3:  Life and Letters, pp. 94-95.]



Over Cairns’s life during his last session at the University there hung the shadow of a coming sorrow.  His father’s health, which had never been robust, and had been failing for some time, at length quite broke down; and it soon became apparent that, although he might linger for some time, there was no hope of his recovery.  In the earlier days of his illness the father was able to write, and many letters passed between him and his student son.  The following extracts from his letters reveal the character of the man, and surely furnish an illustration of what was said in a former chapter about the educative effect of religion on the Scottish working-man:—­

“DUNGLASS, Dec, 23,1839.

“I would not have you think that I am overlooking the Divine agency in what has befallen me.  I desire to ascribe all to His glory and praise, who can bring order out of confusion and light out of darkness; and I desire to look away from human means to Him who is able to kill and to make alive, knowing that He doth not grieve willingly nor afflict the children of men.”

“DUNGLASS, Jan. 5, 1840.

“As I have no great pain except what arises from coughing, I have reason to bless the Lord, who is dealing so bountifully with me....  It would be unpardonable in me were I not endeavouring to make myself familiar with death in the forms and aspects in which he presents himself to the mind.  Doubts and fears sometimes arise lest I should be indulging in a false and presumptuous hope, and, as there is great danger lest we should be deceived in this momentous concern, we cannot be too anxious in ascertaining whether our hope be that of the Gospel, as set forth in His Word of truth.  Still, through the grace and mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ, whom, I trust upon scriptural grounds, I can call my Saviour, I am enabled to view death as a friend and as deprived of its sting, and this is a source of great comfort to me and cheers my drooping mind.  I can say that my Beloved is mine and I am His, and that He will make all things to work together for His own glory and my eternal good.  Dear son, I have thus opened my mind to you, and I trust that your prayers will not be wanting that my faith may be strengthened, and that all the graces of the Holy Spirit may abound in me, to the glory of God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

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Principal Cairns from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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