THE LIFE AND WORK OF PROF. HENRY DRUMMOND, F.R.S.E., F.G.S.
by the Rev Finlay Stewart
Professor George Adam Smith, the biographer of Henry Drummond, gave this evaluation of him:
"He changed the spiritual climate of his half-century."
Drummond was a scientist, a world traveller, and a great communicator of the Christian faith in five continents especially to students.
He was born in August 1851 and grew up in 'Glenelm', a house almost under the shadow of Stirling Castle Rock. He came to love the Rock and all the countryside around it. In later years he used to say, "Man, there's no place like this; no place like Scotland."
Drummond went to Stirling High School, and then to Morison's Academy, Crieff. A bright student, he was very keen on reading. He was good at many sports and had a great sense of fun. That is what his nieces and nephews remembered most about him. He once invited four schoolboys to be his guests in Glasgow to see Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show and to watch an inter-city rugby match.
Henry, named after his father, was one of five children. Henry senior, a businessman, was an elder and Sunday school teacher in the Free North Church, Stirling. So the children grew up within the orbit of the Church.
Henry made his own personal commitment to Christ at an early age, and never wavered from it. As he grew up, it deepened and broadened so that he became one of the most effective Christian leaders of his time. He wrote: "All that concerns a better world is the direct concern of Christ. Christianity has an equipment for the reconstruction of the world before which nothing can stand. Next to losing the sense of a personal Christ the worst evil that can befall a Christian is to have no sense of anything else.
"The first great epoch in a Christian's life, after the awe and wonder of its dawn, is when there breaks into his mind some sense that Christ has a purpose for mankind - a purpose beyond him and his needs, beyond the churches and their creeds, beyond Heaven and its saints, a purpose which embraces every man and woman born, every kindred and nation formed - which regards not their spiritual good alone, but their welfare in every part, their progress, their health, their work, their wages, their happiness in this present world."
Drummond won this Geology Prize at Edinburgh University. Sir Archibald Geikie, his Professor, once referred to him as "my favourite pupil".
After Graduation, he went to New College, Edinburgh, to study Divinity. He became a leader in his class, reading widely in English literature, science and theology. He also studied for some time in Germany.
It was probably his visiting in the back streets and slums of the Edinburgh of those days that gave him his first experience of urban poverty and spiritual need. He burned to bring an answer, both to individuals and in society, for he was convinced that Christ is the answer on a world scale.
"Christ's programme deals with a real world, not the surface world -with the cold, cruelty, fever, famine, ugliness, loneliness, pain. There is not one burning interest of the human race which is not represented."
Drummond knew at first-hand many of the grim realities of industrial life in the cities, yet many times he expressed his vision for what cities could become, if cleansed and guided by Christ:
"To make cities - that is what we are here for. To make good cities - that is for the present hour the main work of Christianity. For the city is strategic. One Christian city, one city in any part of the earth whose citizens, from the greatest to the humblest, live in the spirit of Christ, where religion has overflowed the churches and passed into the streets, inundating every house and workshop, and permeating the whole social and commercial life - one such Christian city would seal the redemption of the world."
DISCOVERING A LIFE WORK
In November 1873 Moody and Sankey came to Scotland as part of their first great evangelical Mission to Britain. Henry interrupted his studies at New College to work along with them. This is the interleaved pocket New Testament he used at that time. It has their signatures on the fly-leaf and many pages of his notes. While hundreds of students were involved in the campaign, Henry was specially enlisted to work with people in the enquiry rooms after the meetings. He became a close colleague and life-long friend of Moody. After the Mission, he himself travelled up and down Britain conducting meetings and dealing personally with people. It was a tremendous and thrilling period in his life.
Drummond now faced a difficult choice - whether to continue as a fulltime evangelist, or return to New College and complete his studies. A visit to the Barbour family at Bonskeid House, Pitlochry, gave him the chance to listen for God's Guidance and to take advice from Mrs. Barbour, his hostess. He made the decision to return to New College. As he later retold his experience to students:
"Once in my own life I came to cross-roads. 1 did not know in which direction God wanted me to help His Kingdom, and I started to read the New Testament to find out what the ideal life was. I knew I had only one life and I didn't want to miss it. I found out that the only thing worth doing in the world was to do the Will of God. Whether that was done in the pulpit or in the slums, whether done in the college class-room or in the street didn't matter at all."
He then put in a year as assistant in Barclay Church, Edinburgh, where he first delivered some of the addresses now published in "The Greatest Thing in the World".
SCIENCE AND CHRISTIANITY
His Divinity studies completed, Drummond once again faced a crucial decision. He did not feel called to become a parish minister; but how could he pursue his double bent as scientist and evangelist? Suddenly the way opened up in the new post of lecturer in Natural Science at the Free Church College, Glasgow. He applied, was accepted, ordained and appointed to the post, which later became a Professorship. His opening lecture was entitled "The Contribution of Science to Christianity".
"It is certain that every step of Science discloses the attributes of the Almighty with a growing magnificence. Certain it is that the Christian view and the scientific view together frame a conception of the object of worship, such as the world in its highest inspiration has never reached before.
"Look for a moment at the magnificence and sublimity of Christianity from the standpoint of evolution. Look at the size - illimitable. Look at the beauty. Could anything be more perfect than the greatest thing in the world; any force so irresistible as the greatest evolutionary power Love? All this fits in perfectly with science. A Christian is a man who furthers the evolution of the world according to the purpose of Jesus Christ."
While he held the Professor's Chair, Drummond lived at 3 Park Circus. The publication of Darwin's "Origin of Species" had brought a crisis of belief to many. Drummond set himself to answer these widespread doubts. His deep conviction was that Science and Religion are not contradictory but are complementary in revealing God to man.
"Science has to deal with facts and with all the facts, and the facts and processes which have received the name of Christian are the continuations of the scientific order as the facts and processes of biology are the continuation of the mineral world. We land here not from choice, but from necessity. Christianity is the further evolution."
In this study chair he wrote many of his lectures, addresses and books. Meanwhile he reached out beyond students and academics to speak to and help ordinary working people. Dr. Marcus Dods offered him the charge of a small mission station in the Possil Park industrial district of Glasgow. His work there is commemorated in the name of the present Church "Trinity Possil and Henry Drummond". It was to the working men of Possil Park that he first gave the lectures that became his most famous book, "Natural Law in the Spiritual World".
At other times he ministered to a group of miners and to the Canal boatmen at Port Dundas. He was several times a conciliator in industrial disputes. And he was a leading supporter of the Boys' Brigade, whose founder, Sir William Smith, owed much of his Christian experience to him.
Drummond went out to Central Africa in the steps of David Livingstone, and was deeply affected by the conditions he saw there. He reported them in his book, "Tropical Africa".
He returned to Scotland to find that his first book had made him famous. But he was subjected to fierce attacks, even by some Church leaders. At issue were his views on the relationship of Science and Religion and his new way of understanding the Bible. He continued to meet opposition on these points throughout his life; yet he kept his heart open to his critics and answered them without rancour, as this letter of his illustrates:
"The way to spoil souls, to make them hard and bitter and revengeful, is to treat them as many treat me. if I have escaped this terrible fate it is because there are others like yourself who 'think no evil'."
His fresh way of putting the Christian message appealed not only to students but to the intellectuals and leaders of his day. Foremost among them were Lord and Lady Aberdeen and Mr. and Mrs. Gladstone. Drummond used to meet with them here at Dollis Hill. He was also a frequent guest at Haddow House. the home of the Aberdeens, and was a great favourite with the children
"He became the closest of our friends and comrades, the playmate and boon companion of our children. What we owe to his friendship is more than we can ever hope to express. He was so intimate a friend that he became virtually a member of our immediate family circle."
He was godfather to Archie, the youngest boy. Marjorie and her mother were joint editors of a children's magazine called "Wee Willie Winkie", to which Drummond used to contribute stories. This one had a sequel called "Gum". In a letter to his parents from school Archie wrote, "I have told 'Gum' and 'The Monkey that would not kill' in my dormitory the last two nights with great success."
Through the Aberdeens Drummond was invited, in 1885, to address a series of meetings in Grosvenor House, London, the home of the Duke of Westminster. The invitations were issued through the Society Column of the "Morning Post". The ballroom was filled with members of both Houses of Parliament and other leading people. The meetings made such an impact that three years later Drummond was asked to address a second series in the same place.
In 1893 Lord Aberdeen was appointed governor-general of Canada. Drummond travelled from a speaking tour in the United States to welcome them on arrival. It was a Sunday, and in the evening he spoke to their household in Government House, Quebec, on Psalm 46 verse 3. The children never forgot that address about the Fortress and the River in the Christian life - for Defence., and for Outreach. He said: "Every member of this household down to the smallest child will have a share."
THE LIFE AHEAD
In 1889, arising out of the "Student Movement" in Scotland, Drummond received an invitation from 230 members of Melbourne University to go out to address them in the following year. Invitations from other parts of Australia soon followed. He made it part of a wide-ranging tour of the Pacific. Travelling in the S.S."Carthage", he visited the New Hebrides, Tokyo, Shanghai and Singapore.
In Melbourne he stayed with his former New College class-mate, the Rev. John Ewing, then minister of Toorak Presbyterian Church. Suddenly Ewing contracted typhoid fever, and died with Drummond at his bedside. Henry was greatly shaken, and it fell to him to pay the funeral tribute. The Address., given from this pulpit, was the beginning of his wonderful way of speaking about death and life ahead,, which has comforted so many since.
"The end of life is simply to do God's will, whether that be working or waiting, winning or losing, or suffering or recovering, or living or dying. Death can only be gain when to have lived was Christ. There are two ways in which a workman regards his work as his own, or as his Master's. If it is his own, then to leave it in his prime is a catastrophe, if not a cruel and unfathomable wrong. But if it is his Master's one looks not backwards but before, putting by the well-worn tools without a sigh and expecting elsewhere better work to do."