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were looking suspiciously at the growing intelligence of working men, and connecting it with revolutionary events then going on in Europe, Mr. Robertson threw himself boldly into their cause, and avowed his belief that they had rights which, if trampled on, it was at the peril of the social fabric; that they had wrongs which it were well for England if she recognized and set herself steadily to remedy. In public and private he ever sought to bring classes together.
His pulpit ministrations were chiefly addressed to the richer classes of society, and he never failed to warn them, with a stern yet loving faithfulness, respecting the special responsibilities and temptations to which they were exposed. Most unflinchingly did he seek to impress upon them the duties they owed to those below them in the social scale;* while, in speaking to labouring men, he as faithfully told them that one great cause why they were depressed and degraded was to be found in themselves; that when they could exercise self-denial, temperance, steadfastness in self-improvement, it would be simply impossible for any one to keep them down. He told them, too, that in obtaining the mastery over self, they were attaining in God's kingdom a rank and a
* See "The Church's Message to Men of Wealth;" published in the First Series of his Sermons.
nobility greater than any mere earthly title could confer. And both classes responded to his earnest zeal for their welfare, with a genuine love, which is very touching, very refreshing, in a day of conventional flattery and mutual self-laudation. Amongst many illustrations of the feelings of the Working Classes towards him may be mentioned this one. A pair of candlesticks was sent to him, accompanied by a letter, of which the following
is a copy
"SIR,-A humble individual, desirous of acknowledging the unflinching kindness you have shown towards the working classes of this town, begs the acceptance of the enclosed; and, in doing so, he hopes you will pardon what I am afraid you will think an un-English way of sending a note without a name. My apology must be, that as you do not know me, you will not put any wrong construction as to my motive in doing so.
'Nothing but the profoundest respect would have induced me to take the liberty I have.
Believing you to be a man as well as a gentleman, that you can come down to the level of working men, and understand them (a rare qualification now-a-days in one in the class that circumstances has placed you), all working men think it so much the more valuable to have your advice and assistance. May it long be continued.
"I do not complain that we have not the sympathy of the upper classes. I believe we have; but there is not one in fifty that can come down to our circumstances, to the bond of our common nature, to comprehend that, although the mechanic
and artisan of this country are deep thinkers, yet they often, stand in need of advice, and the assistance that education givës. We have their good wishes and pecuniary assistance—thanks for it, but sometimes a little kindly advice would do far more. It is this difference that makes us feel we could grasp you by the hand as a brother in the cause of progress of the nation. Would that there were more such. How much more would true religion, morals, and sound intellect be brought out. No fear then of the pope or the devil. Believe me, sir, I am very respectfully yours."
Referring to this letter, of which he never knew the writer, Mr. Robertson writes to Lady Henley :
"You are quite welcome to copy that note; it does more honour to the writer than to the receiver; but except in cases where you can trust discretion, it would be better not to give my name. Ninety-nine out of a hundred would put my showing it you down to the score of vanity. You can show it, if you like, as a proof of the good and generous feeling sometimes found in lower life; but as there are many who hate me as a heretic, pray do not let them have a handle.”
It will not surprise any one who knows human nature, to hear that, while to many people Mr. Robertson's teaching came like light in a dark place, to some it seemed revolutionary in politics, and heretical in creed.
Some influential persons spoke strongly against his teaching and his influence-it is believed with
but very little personal knowledge of either; one went so far as to warn an attendant on the afternoon service at Trinity Chapel that if that attendance should be continued, the light of his countenance would be withdrawn; and this threat, which would have been disregarded so far as personal consequences were to be feared, became operative when the consideration of the consequences of such withdrawal to dear relatives was pressed and considered.
Some persons talked of "Neology;" and an active platform orator, well known at Exeter Hall, was brought down to deliver two lectures on "Neologianism." It was well understood by Mr. Robertson's congregation, that it was as a protest against their pastor that this was done. There are those who still remember the extreme perplexity of some excellent people who, recognizing in the names advertised to attend the meeting those clergymen whom they had been accustomed always to feel quite safe and comfortable in sitting under, were notwithstanding much confused by the new word, and anxiously inquired what the lecture was about. Was it a religious meeting? or a scientific meeting? or what was it?
Well, the lectures were delivered, and it is no disparagement to the zeal of the reverend orator to say that Trinity Chapel continued just as full, and
Mr. Robertson's influence just as great, as before these gratuitous lectures on "Neologianism."
It is gratifying to be able to record that he against whom these and other similar demonstrations were made-some, by the way, not quite so manly and open as this-was in no way disturbed nor annoyed by them. Never did an angry word pass his lips respecting any of those whom he knew were branding him as a heretic-who were trying, as far as they could, to hinder his ministry, or discredit him in the so-called religious world.
Towards the close of his ministry, it became evident that the only chance of his restoration to health was by having rest, and his congregation raised a fund for the payment of a curate; of course leaving the selection of the curate to Mr. Robertson. In a letter written at this time
“One inducement towards accepting their offer is, that it would enable me to take a district, and try to work it, with a view to physical, as well as spiritual, improvement of the poor; acknowledging Christ as the 'Saviour of the body;' a truth ingeniously ignored.”
And writing on the same subject a little later, he says:—
I am anxious, on my own account, for assistance, in order