Earlston frightened into silence the Presbytery of Kirkcudbright on one occasion also, when at their first meeting after he had spoken out so bravely before the king and the Parliament, and they were to move him a vote of thanks, he cried out: ’Fathers and brethren, the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, and you do not know it. For I had a deep, malicious, revengeful motive in my heart behind all my fine and patriotic speeches in Parliament. I hated Montrose more than I loved the freedom of the Kirk. Spare me, therefore, the sentence of putting that act of shame on your books!’ It was discoveries like this that accumulated in John Livingstone’s note-book till he blotted out all his instances and left only the blessed result, ’Alexander Gordon, a man of great spirit, but much subdued by inward exercise, and who was visited with most rare experiences of downcasting and uplifting.’ No doubt, dear John Livingstone; we can well believe it. Too rare with us, alas! but every day with your noble friend; every day and every night, when he lay down and when he rose up. His very dreams often cast him down all day after them; for he said, If my heart were not one of the chambers of hell itself, such hateful things would not stalk about in it when the watchman is asleep. Downcastings! downcastings! Yes, down to such depths of self-discovery and self-detestation and self-despair as compelled his Heavenly Master to give commandment that His prostrate servant should be lifted up as few men on the earth have ever been lifted up, or could bear to be. Yes; they were rare experiences both of downcastings and of upliftings; when such downcastings and upliftings become common the end of this world will have come, and with it the very Kingdom of Heaven.
The last sight we see of Alexander Gordon in this world is after his Master has given commandment that the last touch be put to His servant’s subdued and childlike humility. The old saint is sitting in his grandfather’s chair and his wife is feeding him like a weaned child. John Livingstone tells that Mr. John Smith, a minister in Teviotdale, had all the Psalms of David by heart, and that instead of a curtailed, monotonous, and mechanical grace before meat he always repeated a whole Psalm. Earlston must have remembered once dining in the Manse of Maxton at a Communion time; for, as his tender-handed wife took her place beside his chair to feed her helpless husband, he always lifted up his palsied hand and always said to himself, to her, and above all, to God, the 131st Psalm—
’As child of mother weaned;
Is like a weaned child;’
till all the godly households in Galloway knew the 131st Psalm as Alexander Gordon of Earlston’s grace before meat.
XII. EARLSTON THE YOUNGER
’A renowned Gordon, a patriot,
a good Christian, a confessor, and, I
may add, a martyr of Jesus Christ.’—Livingstone’s Characteristics.