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MEMOIR OF MR. DAVID NASMITH.
The study of mankind is necessary to a just estimate of individual character. By comparing men with men, whether now living or belonging to former times, we not only ascertain correctly the more marked differences betwixt their mental characters and their principles, but their positive influence upon society. There are thousands now living whose grasp of mind, education, and principles are not strikingly dissimilar : yet in relation to society many of them are nearly useless if not injurious, while some of them are consecrating whatever they possess to redeem their fellow-men from the degraded state in which they are found through ignorance and vice. We do not expect from irreligious men, what we do from Christians. Men who do not fear God, nor confessedly act upon the principles of Christianity, may be, and many of them are benevolent; but none of their conduct originates in the love of God, nor in the spiritual and eternal wellbeing of their fellow-men. Christians profess to believe in Godthe infinite value and immortality of the soul,—the adaptation and efficiency of the Gospel to the circumstances of mankind,—and that all who die unblessed by the death of Jesus Christ, having heard of the purpose for which he died, will perish. How few sufficiently meditate upon this brief Creed! Acknowledging our responsibility to God, and to our fellow-creatures, we too commonly act as if we were irresponsible. Some rich Christians can witness the ignorance and immorality of their neighbours, and do nothing for them, while the state of the world—the state of Ireland, of England, of London, excites sympathy only in a very limited circle.
These remarks are suggested by the name and the deeds of David Nasmith. It was not his wealth which made him useful; he had none. It was not learning; in the proper use of the term he had none.
Everything originated, under God, in the purity
and power of his Christian principles, together with a natural adaptation in his talents for the work of rousing his fellow-Christians, and exciting them to deeds of justice and benevolence in behalf of their fellow-men.
David Nasmith was born in the city of Glasgow, on the 21st of March, 1799. He had the privilege of pious parents, who early instructed him in the great truths of the Gospel. At the age
of six years he was sent to the Sabbath-evening school,* and though for four years he attended the public grammar school, and for five years was employed in learning a trade, he continued faithful to his Sabbath-evening school. The ten years thus spent in acquiring sound religious knowledge, greatly aided him afterwards in his various and important labours.
If our materials were sufficiently ample and accurate, we would present to our readers, though in a brief form, the principal incidents in the life of this good and laborious man. The account published in the last number of the “ City Mission Letter” contains the principal facts that have yet been made public, but it must be reserved for a future time, and biographer, to collect other materials that will more fully illustrate both his principles and operations.
We avail ourselves of some extracts from the document just mentioned. It appears that while learning his trade
“ He was exposed to many temptations from his necessary association with the workmen in the same employ with himself. His mind was frequently and deeply exercised on account of sin, and when alone his conscience condemned him. When about the age of fifteen he appeared more than ever to feel his sinfulness in the sight of God, and his need of pardoning mercy; then he was enabled to look to the blood of Christ for pardon and salvation from sin ; and no sooner did he experience the preciousness of Christ to his own soul, than he felt anxious to proclaim the 'glad tidings' of the Gospel to others. About this time he was chosen Secretary to a Youths' Bible Society, which, in a few years, raised 6001. to put the Word of God into the hands of the poor. He acted as a collector in a Youths' Auxiliary Missionary Society, which was enabled to distribute abont 2001. annually, amongst the great Missionary Societies. He also associated with his companions in carrying on a Youths' Tract Society, which issued hundreds of thousands of tracts. In the 18th year of his age he was very desirous to go and preach the Gospel to his fellowsinners in Africa. With this view he applied, through his pastor, to the Theological Academy at Glasgow; the result of which application is given in his own
• The Scottish Sabbath-evening school differed considerably from our Sunday. schools. In the former the chief, if not the sole attention was given to the religious education of the children. The Rev. David Blair, minister of the Gospel in Brechin, is said to have been the founder of these schools. In an advertisement to a sermon he dedicated to the Right Hon. Lady Mary Desk foord, it is said, “ For many years between eight and ten o'clock lie taught an evening-school in his own house ; which was the first Sabbath-school in Scotland, perhaps in Britain : having commenced about half a century ago.'
The dedication of the sermon is dated 1761. The advertisement from which the above extract is taken, bears no date, but was probably written for the reprint of the discourse, which is dated 1804.
It is deeply to be regretted that our Sabbath-schools are not solely appropriated to religious instruction. We hope that ere long our infant and day schools will supply elementary teaching, and that the classes in our Sabbath-schools will be occupied with theological instruction, and lessons of practical piety.
words, But the Lord did not see meet to call me forth at thai time, and therefore directed the minds of his servants not to receive me : this was to me a very severe trial. I had my eye fixed upon that period which I thought not far distant, when I would unfurl the banners of the Cross before them, but I had to learn the important lesson of submission ; the honour being too great to be conferred on me.' He then followed his worldly occupation for a time, and on Sabbath evenings regularly addressed about 200 children, telling them (to use his own words) · of the unfathomable love of the dear Redeemer.' His attention was directed for some time after this, to the opening of the Religious and Charitable Institution House in Glasgow, in which he was Secretary. He conducted the business of twenty-three religious and benevolent Societies. In the year 1825, Mr. Nasmith's mind was impressed with the great importance of City Missions, and on the lst of January, 18:26, the Glasgow City Mission was formed by him, from amongst the members of the Church under the pastoral care of the Rev. Greville Exing. Owing to the great labour connected with his duties as Secretary to the various Societies connected with the Christian and Charitable Institution House, his bodily health suffered greatly, and his best friends (the Rev. Dr. Wardlaw, Dr. Moffatt, and the Rev. Mr. Ewing) were reluctantly induced to advise him to resign his Secretaryship, in order to the recruiting of his health and strength. In what degree his labours were estimated, the following testimonial will show:
66 Anderston, May 5, 1828. “Mr. David Nasmith, Secretary of the Charitable and Religious Institution House, Glasgow, has held his present situation much to the satisfaction of those connected with the Institution, and is now resigning it with the regret of his employers. These were the sentiments universally expressed at the Meeting when his resolution was given in and read. Mr. Nasmith's zeal, and prudence, and piety, and urbanity of manners, and masterly despatch of business, have rendered him a most valuable person in his present highly important situation. His knowledge of religious associations is minute and extensive. For several years he has transacted the busi. ness of upwards of twenty different Societies in the most irreproachable manner; faithfully devoting himself to their success without partiality, and maintaining the strictest confidential secresy, in regard to the affairs of each. His principles are decidedly Evangelical ; his moral character is unspotted. He is most obliging in his deportment, and knows how to become all things to all men, without sacrificing his duty to God, his Church, and his conscience.
“Secretary to the Glasgow Missionary Society.' “ After this, J.C. Colquhoun, Esq., M.P., corresponded with bim, and wished bim to take the Secretaryship of a religious Society in London, with the offer of a salary, but which Mr. Nasmith respectfully declined. In the year 1828, Mr. Nasmith applied to one of the Secretaries of the London Missionary Society, expressing his desire to go and preach the Gospel to the Islanders of the South Seas, but it being considered necessary that he should spend two years at the Missionary College previously to that, he considered he could spend the time more advantageously, by giving himself to the formation of City Missions, the first of these having been established by him in January, 1826, in his native city.”
A most important period, from 1828 to 1835, is passed over in this narrative, and we have only a general summary of his labours in Ireland and America before arriving in England. We wish it was in our power fully to supply the desired intelligence. The following, though defective, will be read with interest. In 1833 and 1834, Mr. Nasmith was in Glasgow. At the beginning of 1833 he published " The British and Foreign Scripture Verse and Memorandum Book; with an Introduction and Appendix, by David Nasmith ;" and in 1834, “ The Christian's Diary ; or British and Foreign Scripture Verse and Memorandum Book.”
The contents of these books (besides a verse of Scripture for every day,
with paper for diary and accounts) embrace “ Verse System, City Missions, Monthly Tract Distribution Societies, Maternal Societies, Young Ladies' Societies, Young Men's Societies, Children's Missions, Temperance Societies, Revivals of Religion, and Statistics of Scottish and American Societies.” In 1833, under the head of “ City Missions,” Mr. Nasmith says, “ About seventy or eighty Christian Missions have been formed in Europe and America within a few
purpose of carrying the Gospel to those persons in our cities, towns, and villages, who do not attend public worship." In the preface to “ The Christian's Diary" for 1834, he says, “ City Missions are maintaining their ground, The Dublin and Glasgow City Missions have each twenty-one or twenty-two missionaries, usefully employed among the poor. The Paris City Mission, formed in 183 has been honoured of God to do good. The general agent of the Philadelphia City Mission, in a recent communication, gives a gratifying report of its progress; from his annual statement, presented last April, it appears that the agents of this Mission have ministered in 248 cases of cholera ; have distributed during the two years of its existence 1,711,140 pages of tracts, 293 Bibles, and 58 New Testaments; they have directed 131 to week-day, and 889 to Sabbath-schools, and 327 to the different Evangelical churches; 13 drunkards are reported as reformed, 65 persons have joined the Temperance Society, 82 backsliders have been awakened or reclaimed, 237 individuals have been placed on the list of anxious inquirers after salvation, and 125 have been hopefully converted.”
In a “notice," at the close of the preface of “ The Christian's Diary,” Mr. Nasmith speaks of other publications, apparently edited by himself, “ The Christian Philanthropist's Companion,” “The Series of Revival and Practical Tracts,” and also the “ Transatlantic Preacher," the publication of which was to be in weekly numbers of twelve pages 8vo., as soon as there were sufficient subscribers to warrant the undertaking.
“ Prior to his arrival in England, in 1835, (says the writer in the City Mission Letter,') he had visited 140 towns and villages in Ireland, about seventy in the United States and Canada, three in France, and many in Scotland ; and had been instrumental in establishing 150 Societies, embracing City Missions, Bible, Tract, Sabbath-school, Temperance, Seamen's, Prison, Penitentiary, Benevolent, Christian Union, Maternal, Young Men's, Young Women’s, and Children's Societies. In the course of one year's residence in the United States he addressed 101 assemblies on the subject of Missions, and thirty-one companies of young men in colleges, theological seminaries, and other places, on their duties and privileges; also forty-four Sabbath-schools, and forty other assemblies of whites, Indians, and people of colour, on the one thing needful."
In 1835 Mr. Nasmith arrived in London and communicated to the officers of the Christian Instruction Society his intention of