December 9: On the Death of a Pastor’s Children

‘Though He slay me, as He did my children, I will trust in Him.’

The biographies of faithful pastors make for some of the most rewarding reading. One example would be Samuel Brown Wylie’s Memoir of the Rev. Alexander McLeod [1774-1833], a beloved pastor who is widely considered the patriarch of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. Another account of Rev. McLeod’s life and ministry is found in William B. Sprague’s volume on the Annals of the Reformed Presbyterian Pulpit. In this later account, offered by the Rev. Gilbert McMaster, we have a valuable portion on dealing with the death of a child.

We join Rev. McMaster’s account here:—

mcleod01Dr. McLeod sensibly felt the ills of life, but he evinced under them the most meek and quiet spirit. As an illustration of this, I may be allowed to give the following extracts from a letter dated December 9, 1815, shortly after being bereaved of two amiable and beloved children by scarlet fever:—

” Your favour reached me at a time in which private grief overcame the force of public interests. On Tuesday morning, my fine daughter breathed her last. She now lies beside her younger sister, where not the fever nor the storm shall disturb them. Blow upon blow falls upon my offending head and my deceitful heart. You know how long I have desired a release from this body of death and world of trials; but my God—for yet I shall call Him mine—refuses my wishes and my prayers, and beats me on the sorest part, by slaying my beloved babes, one by one, before my eyes. I have seen in the tortures of my infants the hatred of the Divinity against sin; and my works and my prayers,, my knowledge and my experience, start up before my alarmed conscience, as a thing in which I cannot hope. Decked in their impurity and imperfection, it is I who have sinned more than these afflicted children who are torn from my bleeding heart; and both the experience and the labour of my life are a burden instead of a pillar on which my soul can rest. Oh, my brother, how inestimable is that word of truth upon which the faith of God’s elect may and doth rest! To that word I refer my all. It is my only comfort, and, resting upon the offer of the gift of God, I say,—’ Though He slay me, as He did my children, I will trust in Him.’ Excuse these effusions of a wounded spirit. You know the feelings of a father.”

Such was the Rev. Dr. Alexander McLeod. Yet he was but a man—great and good indeed, but still a man. The sun has his spots, and my illustrious friend had his imperfections. They were, however, only such as are incident to our diseased nature in its present state;—the occasional manifestation of the remains, in the saint, of ” the old man,”—” the body of sin and death,” where the graces and virtues that constitute the Christian character were greatly predominant and confessed of all.

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