Let us all try Samuel Rutherford’s piecemeal way of reformation with our own anger; let us put a bridle on our mouths part of every day. Let us do this if we can as yet go no further; let us bridle our mouths on certain subjects, and about certain people, and in certain companies. If you have some one you dislike, some one who has injured or offended you, some rival or some enemy, whom to meet, to see, to read or to hear the name of, always brings hell’s dunnest gloom into your heart—well, put off this piece of your sin concerning him; do not speak about him. I do not say you can put the poison wholly out of your heart; you cannot: but you can and you must hold your peace about him. And if that beats you—if, instead of all that making you more easily master of your corruption, it helps you somewhat to discover how deep and how deadly it is—then Samuel Rutherford will not have written this old letter in vain for you.
XI. ALEXANDER GORDON OF EARLSTON
‘A man of great spirit, but
much subdued by inward exercise.’
The Gordons of Airds and Earlston could set their family seal to the truth of the promise that the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children. For the life of grace entered the Gordon house three long generations before it came to our Alexander of to-night, and it still descended upon his son and his son’s son. His great-grandfather, Alexander Gordon also, was early nicknamed ‘Strong Sandy,’ on account of his gigantic size and his Samson-like strength. While yet a young man, happily for himself and for all his future children, as well as for the whole of Galloway, Gordon had occasion to cross the English border on some family business, to buy cattle or cutlery or what not, when he made a purchase he had not intended to make when he set out. He brought home with him a copy of Wycliffe’s contraband New Testament, and from the day he bought that interdicted book till the day of his death, Strong Sandy Gordon never let his purchase out of his own hands. He carried his Wycliffe about with him wherever he went, to kirk and to market; he would as soon have thought of leaving his purse or his dirk behind him as his Wycliffe, his bosom friend. And many were the Sabbath-days that the laird of Earlston read his New Testament in the woods of Earlston to his tenants and neighbours, the Testament in the one hand and the dirk in the other. Tamed and softened as old Sandy Gordon became by that taming and softening book, yet there were times when the old Samson still came to the surface. As the Sabbath became more and more sanctified in Reformed Scotland, the Saints’ days of the Romish Calendar fell more and more into open neglect, till the Romish clergy got an Act passed for the enforced observance of all the fasts and festivals of the Romish Communion.