Beautiful Thoughts - Henry Drummond - ebook

Beautiful Thoughts ebook

Henry Drummond



One who is already familiar with Drummond's writings may obtain a new idea of the force of his style by this array of detached paragraphs. There is one beautiful thought for every day of the year.

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Beautiful Thoughts

Henry Drummond


recollections Of Henry Drummond

Beautiful Thoughts














Beautiful Thoughts , H. Drummond

Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck

86450 Altenmünster, Germany

ISBN: 9783849622565

[email protected]

The invisible things of God from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made.—Rom. i. 20.

To My Dear Friend Helen M. Archibald This Book Is Affectionately Inscribed.


BY PROF. DAVID S. CAIRNS, Aberdeen University

I want to give you a short account of Henry Drummond as I remember him; and although I did not belong to the circle of his personal friends, and there is, therefore, little to record that is not already accessible in Principal Smith's admirable life of Drummond and in Professor Simpson's excellent briefer biography, it may be worth while, for those who have read neither, to put these memories into consecutive form. My own University course was broken by a two years' intermission of study, due to illness. In the earlier period there was almost no corporate religious life among students. The weekly prayer meeting was attended by a mere handful and was not of inspiring character; and the prayer meeting was practically all there was. The first great evangelistic movement of the earlier decade, under Moody and Sankey, had apparently spent its force, and attempts which had been made to renew it had not proved very successful. The University at least was quite untouched. Nor was there any sign that indicated the approach of better things.

When I returned to Edinburgh I found the whole aspect changed. The visit of "the Cambridge seven," itself a result of Mr. Moody's work in England, had made a deep impression on the students. Henry Drummond , a friend and lieutenant of Moody in his work among young men in England, had appeared on the scene, and the memorable Sunday night meetings in the Odd Fellows' Hall were in full flood. No one who attended these meetings can ever forget them—the hall crowded with much of the best life in the University, the tense interest, and Drummond on the platform speaking with absolute simplicity of the common peril and the common salvation; I do not mean by these terms that he used the old language of revivalism. If he had done this he would, I believe, have failed utterly. It was one of the master secrets of his power over us all that he interpreted and mediated the soul of the older evangelism to men who were willing and eager enough to recognize the truth that was in it, if they could hear it freed from elements that did not commend themselves to their best standards of life and thought. A subtle change had passed over the student world in Scotland in the past two or three decades, which has spread far enough since then, and it was one of Drummond's peculiar gifts to have divined and to have met this change; to have had, in fact, that "presentiment of the eve" which is essential for successful appeal to youth whose manhood will be spent in that coming age. But of this I will write later. An intimate friend of Drummond wrote of him once to another friend as "a Bird of Paradise," and it is a good description of him as he was among Scottish students of those days. It was difficult to place him or to account for him in the sober national environment with its steady, Presbyterian ways, and its theological conservatism.

He was, moreover, utterly unlike all that the students associated with the name of "Evangelist," unlike what many of them had come to associate with religion. It would be hard, for instance, to imagine a greater contrast than that between Moody and Drummond, and it is infinitely to the credit of both of them that they understood and loved each other so well. What Moody was like is presumably well known to American students. Drummond, as I remember him, was a slenderly built, tall, graceful man, who walked with a curious springy step, and who was always faultlessly dressed. It is hopeless to describe any human face in words, and I shall not try to describe Drummond's. A friend once told me that he was dining in a London club with Drummond and Richard Holt Hutton, the well-known editor of the Spectator. Drummond had to go early, and when he left Hutton said: "That is the most beautiful face I have ever seen." Certainly I have seen few faces that were so expressive and alive. Sympathy, vitality, tenacity, refinement, and a certain distinction are the characteristics I remember best. First impressions did not give you the real power that was in the eminently courteous and debonair gentleman who stood before you. These won their way into your mind as your knowledge of him grew. A sense of humor lies near the great virtues, if indeed it is not a necessary element in some of them, and this Drummond had in abounding measure. I doubt if he could have influenced a whole generation of students as he did without it. There are many stories of him which illustrate this, and which reveal the sheer joy of life which was one of the springs of his power. Drummond certainly had the student's faith in the place of the pure "lark" in the perfect life.

That this was not simply true of the day of radiant health and success, but of those two dark years of seclusion and pain through which he passed to the great renewal of youth which knows no aging, those who knew him, as I did not, have borne testimony. There is one story of many which I have heard which illustrates this. It is said that in the last stages of his painful illness, a friend came in to see him. Stealing cautiously to the bed and looking at the prostrate figure, he saw Drummond winking at him. It was his way of assuring him that it was all right. I have seen one of the last photographs of him, a shrunken form in a bath chair, with the penciled inscription in his own hand, "The Descent of Man." To one who remembers him in the splendid beauty and vigor of his genius it seems strange and sad, but these experiences showed the unquenchable vigor of his faith and love and hope as never before, and have forever put to silence the criticisms that used to be made about his teaching that we as students resented, but in the nature of the case could not refute, that his was a gospel only for fair weather and youth, but unequal to the deeper and darker experiences of the soul. They are part of that spell whereby to-day he holds his sacred place in the hearts of the great multitudes of men as a man who came from God, who delivered a message from God to them and then went back to God. Perhaps it was needful that he should thus prove the depth and truth of that which he believed and taught. So at last God has overruled this great trial of His servant.

A singular trait in his character, which at all points was so extraordinarily sympathetic and full of cordiality and humor, was his personal reserve. It may not have been so with his closest friends, but it certainly was the case with most, that this man of many confidences and friends did not seem to need to take with the freedom with which he gave. I recall a picture, given me by a friend, of a student party at a Clyde pier, a whole bevy of students welcoming Drummond and struggling in vain to capture his bag and carry it for him. "I never allow anyone to carry my bag," said he. It is a trifle, but from what I have heard I imagine it was characteristic. I incline to think that he would have appreciated Kipling's prayer:

"Oh, whatsoever, may spoil or speed, Help me to need no aid from men That I may help such men as need."

Certainly it was a feature of his addresses that, while full of passionate moral earnestness, of faith, and of noble feeling, he almost never made the slightest reference to his own experience.

I am not saying that this aloofness from the need of help for himself, or from the expression of it, was an admirable feature, or one to be imitated. I do not think it was, but certainly it was not a weak trait. I rather imagine that it was due to the very fineness and intensity of his feelings. There are certain natures that protect themselves by this reserve and shyness from giving themselves away with all the heavy cost that this brings. However it be, such reserve did not prevent Drummond from winning not only the admiration but the whole-hearted love of the students of my time.

Many who, like myself, never saw him except in public, and never knew him only through his addresses, and through friendship in later life with the men who were his personal intimates, feel to-day towards him as they feel to their own nearest and personal friends. I take it that that is one of the greatest tributes that one can pay to his memory. But it may be said, what was his message? What did he do for students that other men could not do? Briefly, I would say, he translated the Gospel to many. To many it had become a thing concerned mainly with future salvation or something bound up with a traditional doctrine, the foundations of which they felt were being shaken by the advance of science and progress of criticism, and Drummond showed them that it was first of all a thing of present life and experience as real science, an actual present possession in the light of which all other forms of life were mean and vulgar and unworthy of a man. Here, as in other respects, he was of the Johannine type. All that is commonplace nowadays, but then it came to many students with all the force of novelty. But while, with all his wonderful powers of exposition and illustration, he brought this truth home he did not, as so many have done, allow the truly evangelistic "note of urgency" to go out of his teaching. He made men feel that they were being already judged by this gift of God; that the difference between having the life and having it not was immeasurable, not the kind of difference that exists between the less and the more desirable, but the kind of difference that there is between right and wrong, the difference that there is between life and death.

I have rarely heard speaking as powerful as was Drummond's in some of these addresses as he pressed the great issue home. And what made it the more powerful was the perfect tact and restraint of the presentation. Many strong speakers lack this. They lose contact time and again with their audiences. They gain it again, of course, but all such losses of touch are both a waste of time and force, for the effect of the best evangelistic speaking is cumulative. Drummond understood his Edinburgh audiences perfectly. I think he was the first man who did. I remember a friend who attended his meetings, and who has since attained a position of scientific eminence, saying that Drummond's addresses showed far greater ability than his books. And I quite agree with him. His sympathy and intuitive knowledge of the men before him were indeed wonderful and fill one with admiration as one looks back. His books were brilliant excursions in mediation between science and religion. "Natural Law," in spite of its immense sale, has left no direct mark on thought. "The Ascent of Man," which is much the better book of the two, has never, I think, had full justice done it. But neither stand in the front rank to-day. It is quite otherwise with Drummond's work among students. It has stood the test of time. There are men all over the world to-day who remember him with gratitude and love as the man who opened a new world to them, who won them and kept them for religion and for God. I cannot speak for America, but certainly in Scotland Drummond is one of the great personal forces which is working to-day in the University. The great Sunday night meetings have been carried on by his friend and disciple, Dr. Kelman. Still further, his ideal and spirit are working on throughout the country in the Student Christian Movement. This has been reinforced by other streams, but the Movement, as a whole, is exactly the kind of thing that he would have delighted in and rejoiced to serve. The point that I am seeking to make is that Drummond was, above all others, in Scotland at least, the forerunner of the Student Movement. He divined that there was here in the universities a new field of work, a new type of mind, that needed to be studied and spoken to in its own tongue. There are those who deny the soundness of this, but we are not concerned here with whether they are right or wrong. Certainly Drummond did not agree with them. Just as certain men understand the artisan and others the fisherman, so Drummond understood the student, and pioneered the way for the great Movement which was to follow, which since the "eighties" has gone all around the world.

I have spoken of his insistence on the Gospel as the Gift of Life, and on the moral earnestness with which he preached it as an issue between life and death. But one would give a wholly false impression if one stopped there. The central emphasis was already laid on the living Christ as the one way to truth and life. This was the real center of Drummond's Gospel and of his own life. There is no novelty here, happily, for surely this has always been at the core of Christianity, but with what novelty and beauty he made that great theme shine for the students of his day! The finest thing, in my judgment, that he ever wrote is the little tract called "The Changed Life," which gives the religious side of his teaching to students, as "The Greatest Thing in the World" gives the ethical. I wish that that tract were reprinted and circulated wholesale at our conferences. I believe it would find among the rising generation of students a new mission, it may be, as powerful as the old. I doubt if he ever wrote anything into which he put more of the inner secrets of his life. Its central idea is that the only life which to-day is worth having, inasmuch as it reveals God and slays temptation, comes from personal relationship with the living Christ. The form of Drummond's addresses was singularly good. His manner was quiet and restrained, and he kept our close attention by the simple fact that "he was saying something all the time," and saying it with such simplicity and earnestness that you thought nothing of the speaker but everything about what he was saying, which was exactly what he wished you to do.