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Friday June 8 2018

Looking Back: Charteris Tribute

The Very Rev Professor Archibald Charteris, founder of Life and Work, the Church of Scotland Guild and the Diaconate, died in April 1908. This tribute, presumably written by the editor, the Rev Robert Howie Fisher, appeared in June.

Archibald Hamilton Charteris

WITH startling suddenness, after no premonition of pain, this great Churchman was taken into the nearer presence of the Master he loved and served on the afternoon of Friday 24th April.

Those who have known most intimately the history of the Scottish Church during the past generation are those who can best appraise Dr. Charteris and the work which he has done. It is not long ago that the words of Dr. Cameron Les were quote in these columns. “He did not believe,” he said, “that in the history of the Church since the Reformation there had been any one who had done more real, true and visible work for his Church than Dr. Charteris.” Other leading Churchmen contribute to this Number their appreciation of the leader who has gone to his reward.

There are many throughout Scotland who can join in those tributes, and who recall out of grateful memory acts of solicitude and graciousness which made Dr. Charteris dear to them.

His was a singularly interesting personality – tender, affectionate, clever-minded, religious with a deeply emotional piety and an eager love of Christ. His monument is in the hearts of countless men and women who owe the best that is in them to the new life with which Dr. Charteris awakened and inspired the Church.

Archibald Hamilton Charteris was born in 1835 at Wamphray, where his father was schoolmaster. He was educated at Edinburgh University and at Tübingen and Bonn. As a parish minister he served successively at St. Quivox, New Abbey, and The Park, Glasgow. He was Professor of Biblical Criticism at Edinburgh from 1868 to 1898. The General Assembly called him to the Moderator’s Chair in 1892. He was one of the Chaplains to Queen Victoria; and since His Majesty’s accession, to King Edward. He was a Doctor of Divinity and Doctor of Laws. His wife – a true helpmeet – is the daughter of the late Sir Alexander Anderson of Aberdeen.

Had Dr. Charteris been spared till June, he would have reached his jubilee as a minister of the Church of Scotland.

The supreme tasks of Dr. Charteris’s career and its most lasting triumphs are bound up with the history of the Committee on Christian Life and Work. Against opposition, not always considerate or fair, his ingenious and inventive mind and his restless energy built up, in connection with that Committee, a series of organisations which have made a deep impress on the mind of the country. The Young Men’s Guild, the Woman’s Guild, the order of Deaconesses, are now a recognised part of the beneficent activities of the Church; they sprang from Dr. Charteris’s brain. Long years after this, when the disputants of the day are forgotten and the dreary controversies of Scottish ecclesiasticism taste dry on the lips of history, the statesmanship and administrative genius which devised and founded those living agencies will be gratefully and piously revered.

It must not be forgotten here that Dr. Charteris was the chief instrument in the origin and early development of this Magazine, of which he was the first editor. The initial Number lies before his successor as he writes these lines. It has an “Introductory Notice,” signed “A.H. Charteris,” marked by that sagacious and courageous spirit with which he set out on every new enterprise. “The Christian Church,” he writes, “has probably never yet made full use of the mighty powers of the Press: certainly the Church of Scotland never has.” He goes on to say that a circulation of 35,000 was the least with which Life and Work could succeed. And within a few months he is anticipating a circulation of 140,000. The Magazine, with all its wonderful success, has never reached the height of its founder’s dream. But it has sedulously kept before its mind the aim with which he set forth “to promote pure and undefiled religion in our beloved land.” And of the many places where honour is paid to Dr. Charteris there is none more fitting than these pages for a tribute to the pure-minded, femininely-sensitive, brave and loyal servant of the Scottish church and people who now lives with God.

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