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ing influence over their brethren of mankind, and become the instruments of accomplishing a far larger amount of good, than if, apart from mental power,
, and the grace which cometh down from God, they had inherited the noblest name, the highest rank, and the most splendid estates.
These men may be said to shine, not alone by the radiance of an unclouded prosperity. Like gems of the purest water, they have lustre and excellence and beauty in a sense inherent in themselves. And while the memory of the wicked shall rot, the righteous shall be held in everlasting remembrance.
This, to some extent at least, was the case with James Nisbet ; and, in glancing at some of the leading features of his character, I am anxious to indicate the principles to which they are to be traced, and to point out a few of the lessons which they teach.
All common things—each day's events,
That with the hour begin and end ;
Are rounds by which we may ascend.
But we have feet to scale and climb
The cloudy summits of our time.
That, wedge-like, cleave the desert airs,
Are but gigantic flights of stairs.
The distant mountains that uprear
Their frowning foreheads to the skies, Are crossed by pathways, that appear
As we to higher levels rise.
The heights by great men reached and kept,
Were not attained by sudden flight ; But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upward in the night.
Standing on what too long we bore,
With shoulders bent and downcast eyes, We may discern, unseen before,
A path to higher destinies.
Nor deem the irrevocable Past
As wholly wasted, wholly vain, If, rising on its wrecks, at last
To something nobler we attain.'
'Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he
is old, he will not depart from it.'—PROV. XXII. 6.
HE date of James Nisbet's birth was the 3d
of February 1785. His father was at that time the tenant of a small farm at
Spylaw, in the neighbourhood of Kelso ; but he afterwards went into the army, and having served for upwards of fifteen years in the 15th Foot, under Colonel Sir William Fawcett, he was discharged with the rank of sergeant, in consequence of his arm being wounded and broken. He was then admitted as an out-pensioner of Chelsea Hospital, and appointed by the Earl of Moira to be conductor of stores in the establishment of the field train of artillery at Woolwich. He and his partner in life were remarkably upright and amiable, and exemplary in the discharge of their relative duties, and their son,
while living under the paternal roof, was no doubt trained very carefully to the practice of the same principles, by which they themselves were characterized ; and I feel assured that their influence and example were of signal service, in instilling into his mind from his earliest years that love of truth, and of honesty, and of kindliness, and of fair and honourable dealing, which he continued eminently, and through the whole course of his life, to exemplify for himself.
But in other respects I cannot help thinking that his religious education, while defective in itself, was not altogether founded in right principle. His parents were themselves unduly prejudiced against the peculiarities of vital and evangelical religion, and therefore could not be expected to be earnest and indefatigable in pressing upon his attention the vast importance of looking for the teaching of the Divine Spirit, that, being washed in the blood of Christ, and born from above, he might be qualified for the faithful and efficient performance of every good work. Moreover, it is not undeserving of notice, that being an only child, he was indulged in almost everything to an extent exceedingly prejudicial to his usefulness in after life.
To nothing else than the defective and injudicious training to which he was subjected in his childhood is, I believe, to be traced that feature in his character to which his own minister, Dr. Hamilton, of Regent Square, London, so emphatically refers in the sermon which he preached on the occasion of his death. He says : With a sanguine temperament, he had strong convictions, and an eager spirit; and whilst he sometimes magnified into an affair of principle a matter of secondary moment, he was impatient of opposition, and he did not always concede to an opponent the sincerity which he so justly claimed for himself. Then, again, his openness was almost excessive; and his determination to flatter nobody sometimes led him to say things more plain than pleasant ; and this, united to a fastidious optimism--to that turn of mind at once constructive and conservative, which planned its own ideal, and which could bear no alterations on it except those of his own originating,—this sensitiveness and this outspokenness, kept some persons from ever discovering his rare and remarkable worth. The keen sentence, or the warm demonstration, rankled in their memory, and created a prejudice not easily overcome. And those only could appreciate his excellence who either knew his entire manner of life, or whose casual acquaintance was confined to the walks of his habitual benevolence.'