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Rev. Henry Douglas






 Henry Douglas, (30th August 1811 - 15th June, 1849) the son of the the Rev. James Douglas, minister of Stewarton, was minister of Kilsyth Church.


In 1843 the Church in many places received a double blow. The resignation of ministers beloved and trusted was an injury in itself of a serious kind. On the other hand, it was often the case that the ministers called to fill the numerous vacancies were by no means possessed of the talents of those who had seceded. In the emergency, men of mediocre power were promoted to parishes which, otherwise, they never would have had the least chance of obtaining. Such appointments were, without doubt, greatly hurtful. But there was no one to blame. The Church had to work with such tools as she found at the crisis lying to her hand. In the circumstances, picking and choosing were out of the question, and so the vacant pulpits were replenished and the work went on. And it was attended with a success which far surpassed the most sanguine expectations of the Church’s best friends. The sowing in tears was succeeded by a reaping time of joy. From the ground the Church rose rapidly to be a power and influence for good in the land she had never been before.

In Kilsyth the Church had only one of these sufferings to bear. Dr. Bums, but coldly welcomed at the first, had in the course of his ministry established himself in the respect and esteem of the parishioners. When he seceded, consequently a considerable number seceded with him. Although on the Sunday after his return from Edinburgh there were not a dozen worshippers who gathered in the parish church, there was still a much larger number that remained faithful. And these had no occasion to hang their heads because of any short-coming in his successor. Than Henry Douglas a better appointment could hardly have been made. He was a man of singular loving-kindness, of gentle and urbane manners, and of agreeable and friendly disposition. He was deeply read in Scripture, a man full of the Holy Ghost, and a minister who knew nothing amongst his parishioners saving Jesus Christ and Him crucified. He fed the flock with the finest of the wheat. Certainly he led them by the still waters. I have looked over all his sermons, and not one have I found dealing with the prevailing controversies* or openly expressed malice of the times and circumstances amidst which his lot had been cast. He received from many in the parish indignities and’insults, but he walked straight onward in the footsteps of his Master. He did not return railing for railing, and being reviled he reviled not again. And the result of his beautiful patience and tenderness is a memory that is sacred, a name that is fragrant like an ointment poured out, and a lingering regret in the place of his ministry that as a faithful ambassador of Christ he was neither honoured nor appreciated as he ought to have been. In the place where he worked as a probationer, and in the first parish to which he was appointed he was honoured in his life; in the parish of Kilsyth, however, the esteem that has been extended to him has been entirely of a posthumous character. It is only on looking back, the people of Kilsyth recognise his moral dignity and spiritual elevation.

The father of Henry Douglas was the Rev. James Douglas, minister of Stewarton (where he succeded Mr Maxwell). Mr. Douglas was ordained to Stewarton on the last Thursday of May, 1793, and he was married to a lady named Annabella Todd on the 15th January, 1795. He had a family of seven sons and six daughters; amongst the latter were twins. Janet Douglas, the fourth child, was born nth Feb., 1802. Her first husband was Dr. John Torrance, surgeon, Kilmarnock. Her second husband was the well-known peripatetic philosopher and colloquialist, the Rev. Dr. (“Rabbi”) Duncan, to whom she was married in 1840. To the professor she bore one daughter, named Maria Dorothea, after the Empress of Austria. She received her name at the request of the empress. The Rev. James Douglas died at Stewarton on the 11th April, 1826. His widow died at the manse of Kilsyth on the 19th July, 1847, aged seventy-three years, and was buried at Stewarton.

Henry Douglas was the fourth son of the family, and was born at Stewarton, 30th August, 1811. Through his mother he was related to the Wallaces of Ayrshire. Having completed his course at the University of Glasgow, he was appointed parochial assistant in Saline parish. The young man at once gave evidence of his fitness for the profession he had chosen. The ladies presented him with a magnificent chronometer in appreciation of “his unwearied zeal and ability in the discharge of his duties.” On the 22nd April, 1841, he was ordained to the charge of Alexandria. There he was even more appreciated than he had been in Saline, and as a preacher he became so widely and favourably known, that when the secession took place he was very much sought after. At Alexandria, he was joined by his mother and Annie Arnot, the old nurse of the family. The latter, as she had attended him at the beginning of his life, was also to be with him at the end. Henry Douglas never married. He and the Rev. Robert Murray M'Cheyne were engaged to two sisters, the Misses M-, daughters of a respectable west-county family. The lady to whom Mr. Douglas was to be married fell a prey to consumption, and died at Madeira. To this disease, Mr. Douglas and Mr. M'Cheyne also succumbed. When it became known that their minister had accepted a call to Kilsyth, the people of Alexandria were possessed of a feeling of universal regret. They confessed they had been richly benefited by his ministry, and they highly approved of his conduct during the time of the Patronage conflict He preached his last sermon in Alexandria Church on the 24th September, 1843.

On the Thursday following, Henry Douglas was inducted minister of Kilsyth. Principal M'Farlane conducted the service. On the succeeding Sunday, the 1st October, 1843, he was introduced by the Rev. Mr. Dun of Cardross, and at the second diet of worship he preached his introductory sermon. His text was 2 Cor. x. 4, “ For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty through God to the putting down of strongholds.” The sermon was of a weighty character, and both it and the manner of the preacher—not demonstrative, but full of quiet earnestness—had in them a promise of blessing for the future. In March, 1844, when he dispensed his first sacrament, there communicated 210. In the July of the same year, 237. At the July sacrament of 1846, there communicated 246, and in the July of the following year, 239. The former session. clerk having seceded, refused to deliver over the church records and plate. The session, which consisted of the Very Rev. Dr. Smith, the present minister of Cathcart, and two elders, by the advice of the presbytery were on the point of taking strong measures before the Civil Court, when, the books and vessels having been restored, further proceedings were rendered unnecessary. This was exceedingly fortunate for the new minister, as it freed him from all legal entanglements, and allowed him at once to proceed with his proper pastoral and spiritual work. He paid no attention to the divisions that existed, and seems to have regarded it as his duty to visit the body of the parishioners. By a large portion he was kindly welcomed; by a few, he was not. The field was unpromising at the first. He was not, however, many months settled when he began to see the work of the Lord prospering in his hands.

Mr. Douglas extended the session—a work in Kilsyth and the West often attended with considerable difficulty.

On the 12th Jan., 1847, he opened a parish library. The session did not now order families to quit the parish, but they still educated a large number of poor children free of expense, and they took pains to see that every child which received this privilege was regular in attendance at public worship. Evidences are not wanting that the wages of a collier was four shillings a day, and of a weaver a very little more per week. In the case of a birth of triplets the session allowed 3s. 6d. a week for » the nursing of one of the children. William Henry was appointed church officer in 1847. He occupied that position for over forty years, and during that long period he was only twice off duty!

In personal appearance the Rev. Henry Douglas was tall and slight and fair. He had an intellectual appearance, and there hung about him an air of refinement, both in look and manner. Some time after his induction, his health began to fail. When riding one winter day to Kirkintilloch to preach, he caught a severe cold. His illness began with clerical sore throat. That he might throw off his disagreeable symptoms, he passed the dead of the Scottish winters in Spain and elsewhere. In 1847, he went to the West Indies. Whilst in Jamaica, on a visit to his brothers, he rallied in health so much that he was able to preach in the Scotch church at Kingston. He was offered the charge of the church, and was tempted to accept it. The illness of his mother, however, hurried him home. After he had laid her to rest, he felt his own days were numbered. When he was struck down for the last time, he wrote to a near friend: —“All my hope and contemplation in death is derived from that glorious Gospel which I have endeavoured, however weakly and imperfectly, to declare to you, so that if I was spared, I would have no new gospel but much added experience of the preciousness of Christ as all my salvation and all my desire.” His sister, Mrs. Duncan, was with him at the last, and to her he spoke these his last words:—“For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.” It was a beautiful departure, full of Christian peace and trust. He preached his last sermon in Kilsyth Church on the 1st April, 1849. The text was Heb. vi. 18: “That by two immutable things in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us.” He died on the 15th June, 1849. His garden was his only recreation, and many of his flowers were in richest bloom.

Alexander Hill was a very different man from Henry Douglas, but their differences fitted him all the better for carrying on that work which his predecessor did so well. The nature of Douglas was the more spiritual, that of Hill the more warm and kindly. Hill mingled amongst his parishioners after a manner Douglas never did and could never do. He came nearer and closer to them. To Douglas, Kilsyth was the terminus of his ecclesiastical career, to Hill it was the starting point. But he should never have gone, and left to his better judgment he never would. He was happy in Kilsyth, he with his parishioners and his parishioners with him. It was his first place, his first parish. He came young and untried, but he at once gave evidence of the possession of those gifts and graces which the circumstances most required. He had a fine presence, and a full-toned mellifluous voice, which remained with him to the last. The voice was a family possession, and recalled with marvellous distinctness the utterance of his distinguished father, and still more distinguished grandfather.






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