It was toward the close of the year 1884, that the writer was appointed by the Committee of the Open-Air Mission to succeed Mr. John M. Pamment,* as Mr. Kirkham’s Assistant, having made his acquaintance some few years previously. What a privilege to share the labours, and to enjoy the fellowship of such a man! How unspeakably precious and memorable the years thus spent together! Our constant reflection could not fail to be, Here is a man of God whom the Church/of Christ, honoured and loved by thousands though he be, must value more when he is gone, and his voice no longer speaks ; even as a mountain; height, from which the traveller recedes, appears in fuller majesty and grandeur than when beneath its shadow. Time had laid a visible, though a tender and caressing, hand upon Gawin Kirkham. Conflict and care began to plough their furrows across the lofty brow ; and the compact figure was bowed. Yet the eager, though restful, 'countenance, the quick footstep, and the resolute attention to the moment’s duty, be tokened the tireless energy which immediately and unfailingly impressed the beholder ; while it begat, perchance unconsciously, the fair and tender grace of emulation.
* Mr. Pamment on his resignation became a Missionary Pastor in the United States, and now labours among the Red Indians of the West.
A Transfigured Life
Like the goodly saints of ancient days, he “ rose early in the morning.” Full often ere the hour of five, repairing to his study, he drew nigh to God, watching and pleading while others slept. Thus, in secret, hallowed, intimate, communion with his Master, the inner fires of his soul were fed. Thus rose high the sacred flame—one undivided trinity of grace : faith, hope, and love, abounding. Correspondence and similar tasks would then engage him until the hour of family worship, at which, appearing fresh and radiant, he would in a few brief moments of expository reading, conduct his hearers into some sweet pasture-land of holy Scripture, and thence lead them, on the untiring wings of prayer and praise, to the inner shrines of the sanctuary, within the vail. In his office, conducting the varied operations of the evangel which he loved to spread, he laboured as one whose task is wholly congenial and of Divine appointment. Here, as the hours sped, fresh evidences of his ripened and harmonious character shone forth in a transfigured life. Ever kind and gentle in his sweet considerateness to all about him ; ready, whenever needful, himself to take the humblest part of duty ; always genial in his brotherly and spontaneous affection, and in warmly welcoming his brethren ; ready to bear their burden, to sustain, console, uplift—he won all hearts, even as to David drew a gathering army of enthusiasts, like the host of God. His nature, eminently bright, and calm and joyous, communicated its glad infection to those about him, and forbade gloom. Often his humour, as restrained as it was delightful, made merry laughter in the family circle, while within his own home, and in many other homes, his presence was as sunshine. How he loved little children ! Often in a railway carriage we have watched with amused interest his advances toward some little one. Soon the child would be found upon his knee, looking into his face ' and listening to his playful words, with wondering eyes and ears. In the welfare of domestic servants, too, he was deeply interested, and after sojourning as a guest within a home he would often despatch some suitable volume as a gift to those whose calling reminded him so strongly of his own earliest toils. He lived in an atmosphere of prayer. The opening of the letters was followed each morning by a brief season of waiting upon God on the part of all in the office at the moment. At such times his whole soul beamed forth, and the deep hidden springs of his spiritual life were stirred, as he commended the work to his Heavenly Father’s care— the members scattered over all the world ; the agents labouring in “ the high places of the field ” at great concourses of the people here and there ; matters arising out of the daily correspondence; special tasks before us ; and, not seldom, the high concerns of the nation and the church.
In him reposed “ A heart at leisure from itself, To soothe and sympathize.” And thus it was that many weary brethren, bowed beneath a load of affliction, poverty, or sickness, were tenderly remembered at the Throne of Grace, and went away refreshed. How prayerful he was may be gathered from the fact that on one occasion, passing some uncompleted houses in Barnsbury, he prayed in each one successively for a blessing on those who might hereafter dwell there. He redeemed the time. Evening hours were anticipated, not for rest, but for the open doors of service which it was his meat and drink to enter. Expounding his beloved Picture, or instructing and inspiring his younger brethren, or lifting up his voice, rich, resonant, and musical, beneath the open skies to all who would incline an ear to the joyful sound—these were the toils and triumphs through which the grace of God was magnified in him : perpetual fountains that yielded living waters of abiding pleasure to his soul, and spread to many a thirsty one beside.
His charities—what a life-story is included in them alone ! Modest enough were his personal means ; but, not content with such bounties, inconsiderable in amount, which his own purse could yield, he had, as long before as the year 1860, founded a benevolent fund, by which thousands of hearts have been made glad, and not a few lives lengthened. The existence of this fund was instrumentally due to Mr. C. Russell Hurditch, who, at a meeting of Christian workers, placed in Mr. Kirkham’s hands a sum of money for distribution among poor evangelists. It was as seed sown in ready and productive soil. Mr. Kirkham’s sympathetic heart longed to relieve his tried and afflicted brethren, and hence came into being an almost silent and wholly unobtrusive means which, in its record of mercy and of deliverance, will be an undying cause of praise in the great and glorious hereafter. His method was to issue once a year, a lithographed appeal for help, naming special cases of urgent need, and showing the receipts and expenditure of the preceding year. This was sent forth on its Christ-like errand to his friends and to many of the Lord's stewards,and was invariably blessed to the ingathering of considerable sums, sometimes amounting in the year to as much as £600. This again was supplemented, in later years, by the Christian generosity of an aged baronet, who entrusted to Mr. Kirkham for distribution many welcome gifts to various societies and missions. Thus did the Master fill his ready hands with labour, and his heart with joy ; and thus, to his poorer brethren, in hours of their bitter need and deep distress, and to many others of the “ household of faith,” were ministered the consolations and deliverances of their Father through a channel as wise and tender and loving as Gawin Kirkham !
How lovingly his heart overflowed in sympathy to the friendless and the careworn may be gathered in some measure by the following tribute from the pen of Mrs. John Chapman, of Suffolk House, Harrow-on-the-Hill, who writes:—“When, as Miss Stroud and a Deaconess at Mildmay, I was led by the Lord to found, in connection with the Deaconess House, its present Home for young women, strangers in London and out of place,’ Mr. Kirkham was the very first to give a helping hand, and for seventeen years his interest was unabated. Many a poor lonely one for whom the Home failed to find accommodation could ever be received and cared for in Mr. and Mrs. Kirkham’s house. I always knew where to send my matron with any poor governess or such like; being assured of ready sympathy and shelter until a situation offered. Many a poor friendless gentlewoman has been in this way a partaker of his bounty, and, more than all, received the knowledge of salvation in his house.”
It was seldom, indeed, that a day passed without a call from some distressed one seeking for his guidance or his help; and it was seldom indeed, that such an one, unless known to be utterly undeserving, was sent away wholly without succour. Where they came from, these wanderers, or how his name had become known to them, was a constant source of wonder. But for every story, however improbable, a patient attentiveness was ready, and the key that never failed to unlock his generous heart was a case of evident distress. Many, many, drawn out of deep waters of affliction, or horrible depths of temptation, rise up and call him blessed, cherishing his memory as a fond possession. Let me recall the things he counted priceless- things which through all labour and all experience bound themselves ever more tenaciously around his heart, and nourished his soul in God. He loved, with all the strength of being, the Gospel of the grace of God. To it, and to its power, he acknowledged an unutterable debt. This was the very heart of truth, which would not suffer compromise, apology, or indifference. He saw himself under nature’s curse and sin’s pollution. He saw himself redeemed by the one atoning sacrifice, the death of the eternal and spotless Son of God. He knew himself united to his death, his resurrection, his ascension, by the effectual operation of the Lord the Spirit, through faith ; and thus, delivered from condemnation, drawn into the fulness of infinite favour, and begotten unto sonship. Vital truth was therefore a vital matter, incapable of expansion, contraction, or amendment; but revealed in all- sufficiency in the written Word, and made known by the Infallible Teacher to the obedient spirit. He saw and mourned a widespread departure from the truth, and recognised it as preparatory to the final apostasy. Not for an instant did he question the wisdom or the necessity of the great conflict into which Pastor C. H. Spurgeon threw himself, in his glorious championship of the absolute inspiration, authority, and inerrancy of the precious Word of God. Nay, rather it was the theme of his praise, his admiration, and his prayerful intercessions, and, perhaps, no man living held a higher place in his affectionate esteem than Mr. Spurgeon.
His Love for the Sabbath
He loved the Sabbath. To him, indeed, the Lord’s Day was the Christian Sabbath, illuminated and perfected by the resurrection of Jesus Christ; a day for rest, for worship, and for holy service. Hence he strenuously upheld the efforts of those who seek to defend its sanctity, and to preserve its untold privileges to the nation. Never once, he repeatedly affirmed, amid his incessant journeyings, had he made use of train, omnibus, cab, or car for any purpose on the Lord’s Day since life began. Never once, as secretary of the Open-Air Mission, had he instructed a preacher to travel on that day ; but, on the contrary, had rejoiced in the rule of the committee that preachers sent to country districts must be received from Saturday to Monday, or if in town must walk to their engagements for the mission. And the postman’s day of rest was just as much the object of his solicitude ; for country letters written on Saturday were invariably withheld from the post until Monday morning, so that, as far as in him lay, he might not add to the postman’s Sabbath toil. “ The release of the twenty thousand postmen of our land,” he emphatically declared, “ demands the best energies of all Christian people.” To see the Lord’s Day publicly desecrated moved his inmost soul to righteous indignation and grief, and at such times it could be seen what depths of feeling lay hidden within. After labouring in the Gospel at a Brighton Volunteer Review he wrote :—“ Any one wanting to see the world’s mode of spending the Sabbath should go to Brighton on the eve of a volunteer review. What with the sight of volunteers, the sound of military bands, the constant stream of people on the promenade, the open Aquarium, and the passing to and fro of public vehicles, it was utterly unlike a day of rest. If my soul was grieved, what must the pure and holy God have felt? Yet the special correspondent of a leading morning paper appears to have enjoyed it thoroughly, and makes it the occasion to administer a rebuke to those who are always fearing the evils of the introduction of a Continental Sunday in England, and exclaims, ‘ Why, we had a Continental Sunday in Brighton to-day, and nobody is the worse for it.’ Nevertheless his first words on Monday refer to the heaviness of eyes and unwillingness to turn out after their gay Sunday evening. So that, judged by his own standard, such a mode of spending the Sabbath is not the best preparation for work on Monday.” He loved to preach. No heavy task, no drudgery was it to extol the glories of the Lamb, and to expound the Gospel in all its height, and breadth, and length, and depth of saving truth. This was work on which no pall of weariness, no sense of exhaustion ever fell. For the Gospel was “the power of God ” ; a power seen, handled, and felt within the realm of his own glad experience. Again and again, on the open highway, and amid scenes where sin ran riot, and the powers of darkness held almost undisputed sway, he had marked its soul-subduing, its heart-changing, its wholly regenerating power. To preach it simply, clearly, intelligently, fully, freely, in the power of the Holy Ghost, was the dearest desire and the highest object before his vision. He knew, he sought, no other remedy for human sin.
The Drink Traffic, and Gambling
The Gospel was to him a sun, full-orbed, undimmed, and quenchless in its light and heat; able to penetrate the hardest hearts and the darkest lands, and to inaugurate the reign of God. Let us pass to the things he feared. The drink traffic, that many-headed monster, inspired in Gawin Kirkham inexpressible horror and dismay. Alas ! he had seen its ravages among some of the fairest of the sons of men, fellow-labourers with him in the Gospel. Once as bright stars in the high firmament, they had fallen to depths unutterable, and would sometimes come to him, wretched and woe-begone, for temporal help, presenting such sad evidences of the soul-destroying power of drink as moved his soul to its inmost depths. With all his strength, by precept and example, he fought this demon, and pressed the battle to the gate. The sin of gambling was hardly less abhorred. On the race-courses of our land he beheld the ensnaring power of this subtle vice, and watched how it held men in its grasp in multitudes—princes, peers, and peasants alike. Often he lifted up his voice in warning at these racing centres themselves, and in the hearing of the very promoters of the evil; more than once receiving personal blows from the enraged enemies of the truth. He feared the influence of the press in spreading information on the subject. Said he:—“ No one can notice the prominence given to sporting matters by the press without fearing for the future well-being of the country. As an illustration of the place racing occupies in the estimation of the public, it may suffice to state that when the country was startled by the awfully sudden death of a prince of the royal house, the only other item announced on the placard of a respectable London evening paper was the winner of a horse race at Liverpool! ” He feared the power of Rome, and her ally Ritualism ; and a visit to Ireland towards the end of his life, with its experiences of Romish intolerance and persecution, only served to deepen life-long convictions, and to warn his brethren more and more earnestly of her unceasing and relentless con spiracies. But abounding evil, growing indifference, and wide spread worldliness only served as signals of the Lord’s appearing. This was the hope immediately present to his heart—the coming of the King. For this he looked and waited, and to this he constantly referred in public speech and in private conversation ; warning the sinner of his danger, and bidding the saint lift up his head, trim his lamp, and don the garments of consecration. Under his fostering care and that of Mr. Mac Gregor, who survived Mr. Kirkham by a few weeks only, the Open-Air Mission had grown to an organization of the first importance, even though its income was lamentably small and totally inadequate. Marvellous work had been accomplished with very limited resources. The principal races, fairs, and galas were being visited by agents of large experience and appropriate gifts ; a membership of one thousand preachers had been formed for voluntary work ; men of God were sent forth on application, and were being used in the winning of souls at numerous open-air services ; and the churches were being increasingly stirred by the publications of the mission to a recognition of, and response to, the great command to “ go out quickly ” ; while by the same means many labourers were being encouraged, equipped, and thrust forth into the harvest field. Thus, guided by the rich and almost unique experience of years ; gifted with rare wisdom, tact, and skill, tempered by a sweet humility, Mr. Kirkham set his face toward the eventide of life, and to the rest beyond.
Sojourn in Switzerland
Borne on the wings of such sacred toil, the flight of the years was swift. In September, 1885, constrained by the evident hand of Providence, he sojourned for a few brief weeks in Switzerland, finding in the wondrous vistas of that glorious peak land “ an inspiration and a revelation.” Gathering up the spoil in lessons of sacred import, he wrote to The Christian thus :—
“ PLEASANT SURPRISES. “
This wonderland, this paradise for tourists, was full of pleasant surprises. One of my friends, who had been there six times before, greatly enjoyed our pleasure and wonder as the glories of the country unfolded themselves to our astonished gaze. Light green valleys, dark green woods, frowning rocks, graceful cataracts, and snow - capped peaks, came before us in endless succession. Such is the journey of life. Our heavenly Father provides infinite variety for his children, and delights in their enjoyment of his gifts. ‘Oh, how great is thy goodness, which Thou hast laid up for them that fear Thee (Psa. xxxi. 19).
“TRIALS AND DISAPPOINTMENTS.
“ But travellers soon learn that the reality is not according to expectation. It was a pleasant surprise to pass from the savage, rocky pass of the Devil’s Bridge and tunnel of Urnerloch into the lovely green meadows of the Urseren valley ; but it was a rude awakening to the suddenness of climatic changes to meet a snow-storm on the Furca Pass (8,100 feet) before the middle of September, and to find ourselves on the same day nearly knee-deep in snow on the Grimsel Pass. To reach high places where we had expected magnificent views, and to 'view the mist, and miss the view,’ was also disappointing. To find hidden intervening ravines when the object we sought seemed so near was also wearying. So it is in passing through life. The unexpected happens. ‘We have need of patience’ (Heb. x. 36), ‘but let patience have her perfect work ’ (James i. 4).
“THE NEED OF A GUIDE.
“It was a rare thing to find travellers without a guide-book, and frequently they were also accompanied by a guide. We were fortunate in this respect, one of our friends being as good as a guide from his familiarity with the country. But on one occasion, when on our way from Chamounix to the valley of Sixt, we were overtaken by a snow-storm on the Col d’Anterne (7,428 feet). Here we found ourselves enveloped in mist, soaked by the rain, and benumbed by the cold ; the path almost obliterated by the snow, some miles from the nearest house, and the locality entirely unknown to any of us.
How welcome at such a moment would a guide have been! So there are moments in life’s journey when we feel entirely cast upon God. The way is hid, and we can but stand still and wait on Him who has said, ‘ I will guide thee with mine eye’ (Psa. xxxii. 8). Then, as in our case, the guide-book is consulted, a fervent prayer offered, the mist lifts, the path reappears, and we journey on till the end is reached in safety.
‘“THE TREASURES OF THE SNOW.’
“When ‘the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind,’ and put to him a series of sublime questions, one of them was this, ‘ Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow?’ (Job xxxviii. 22). No one can traverse these Alpine regions without pondering this question. At first it seems a mere waste of territory to have so large a proportion covered with perpetual snow and ice, however much the beholder may wonder and admire. But he soon perceives the wisdom and benevolence of God in thus treasuring up a never-failing source of fertility for the intervening valleys. I do not think we saw a single stream in our travels that was not born of the glacier. Thus, in addition to protecting plants and keeping the earth warm, these ‘treasures of the snow’ serve the purpose of perpetual springs. So ‘ He sendeth the springs into the valleys, which run among the hills’ (Psa. civ. 10), leading the reflecting tourist to exclaim, ‘ O Lord, how manifold are thy works ! in wisdom hast Thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches ’ (Psa. civ. 24).
“ One of the most solemn and delightful privileges of the traveller is to watch the after-glow upon the mountains when the sun has disappeared. This was accorded to us on several occasions, but was never more impressive than in the valley of Chamounix. To see the hoary head of Mont Blanc, and even the pointed aiguilles of the locality, too steep to allow the snow to settle on them, all aglow with rosy tints, made us feel as though by some transformation scene we were inhabitants of another world, or as though heaven had come down to earth, and the tabernacle of God had been pitched among men.
“HOW TO FIND A RAINBOW.
“ The guide-books name the time when rainbows may be seen on some of the many waterfalls which abound in Switzerland. One day, when at Lauter brunnen, I went to the famous Staulbach Fall (980 feet), and sat down by the flagstaff, and waited and watched. Others did the same, and we all went away disappointed. Next day one of my friends said he would show us how to find the rainbow. So I went again, and saw a most lovely one, and stood almost in the centre of it. Then I found that not only were sunshine and spray necessary to produce a rainbow ; but also that those who would see it must stand between it and the sun, i.e., it could be seen only at a given point. Then I perceived that those who would see the glory of God could see it only in the face of Jesus Christ, and that the reason why so many fail in this respect is because they do not take the right standpoint.
“ THE PURSUIT OF PLEASURE.
" While seeking for a rainbow in the Handeck Falls another lesson was learned. A beautiful butterfly was sporting in the sunshine ; and either through carelessness, or the fascination of the pearly drops which shot from the Fall in profusion, went too near, was caught in the falling shower, and hurled to destruction in the awful gulf two hundred feet below. Who does not see in this an every-day occurrence ? Young people, in the thoughtlessness which the pursuit of pleasure engenders, go to places in which they ‘ see no harm,’ and, alas I are soon hurled into the gulf of disgrace here, and of everlasting despair hereafter.
“THE WEEKLY REST DAY.
“ One form of this ‘ pursuit of pleasure ’ is Sunday travelling. During the three weeks we were in the country, we 'rested the Sabbath Day, according to the commandment’ (Luke xxiii. 56). One of these was spent at the Wildstrubel Hotel, on the wonderful pass of the Gemmi (7,553 feet). Public worship was out of the question ; nor could family worship be indulged, as hostess and her servants spoke German only. So we sought a rocky knoll, overlooking the valley of the Dala, where we sang some hymns, read the account of the transfiguration, and the description of the New Jerusalem, and prayed. The surroundings aided devotion. The tinklings of the sheep-bells on the mountain side made sweet music. The fleecy clouds of purest white floating by reminded us of the transfiguration, when our Lord’s raiment became ‘ exceeding white as snow’ (Mark ix. 3), while occasional glimpses of Monte Rosa, and other far-off mountain peaks, carried our thoughts to the everlasting hills and the New Jerusalem. We felt that earth receded, and heaven came nearer; and though we could not go ‘ with the multitude to the house of God ’ (Psa. xlii. 4), yet, like the beloved disciple in Patmos, we were 'in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day’ (Rev. i. 10). “ Soon after, two English tourists, having ascended the pass, came and stood by our side. They had heard our singing half an hour before they reached us, and one of them declared that when they started that morning they had forgotten it was Sunday! Such is the indifference of some of our countrymen on the Continent to the right use of this blessed day of rest. “ I cannot omit another incident which makes this particular Sunday linger in my memory. Our hostess and her maid occasionally went to the edge of the rocks overlooking the valley of Dala, three thousand feet below, and the Gemmi pass, to watch for travellers ascending the steep path. On these occasions they took with them a telescope to aid their natural vision. In imagination I pictured the angels thus standing on the battlements of heaven, looking out for pilgrims as they ascend from this lower world, and ready to welcome them to their eternal abode. And as our hostess and her maid stood again on the same spot early the following morning to wave a friendly farewell as we descended into the mists of the valley, I grieved at our inability to speak their tongue, and could only hope that the few tracts we had left might be made a blessing to their souls.
“THE DOMINANCE OF ROMANISM.
“ How sad it is to see some of the fairest spots in Switzerland given over to the priests of Rome! One day when travelling between Vernayaz and Chamounix we saw the peasants in their Sunday clothes wending their way to church from valley and hillside. It was a lovely day for agricultural work, yet these men, women, and children forsook field, chalet, and school at the bidding of a corrupt church, to celebrate St. Maurice’s day. But they readily took some illuminated Scripture leaflets, of which I gave about seven hundred during the tour. Devotion is one thing, but the object of devotion should be placed first. God is a Spirit, and requires spiritual worship (John iv. 24).
“THE ALPINE HORN.
“ Between Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen we were attracted by the sound of the Alpine horn. This is a long wooden instrument, which, when used in the vicinity of certain rocks, produces a peculiar melodious echo; and travellers love to hear the sound dying away in the distance. The lesson deduced from this performance was the effect of the Gospel trumpet upon hard hearts, which, when used by the Holy Spirit, produces melody, from that which by nature is hard and stony.
“THE MEETING OF THE WATERS.
“ Although the romance of our journey ceased when we left behind the flowery valleys and the snowy peaks, yet on arriving at Geneva, amid the pouring rain, we made our way to the point where the confluence of the Arve and the Rhone can be best seen. Till it enters the Lake of Geneva, the latter, like all streams of glacial origin, is a muddy river ; but when it emerges from that lake at Geneva it is of a lovely blue colour, and clear as crystal. Rejoicing in its new-found liberty, it hurries onward, but is joined immediately below the town by the muddy Arve, a turbulent stream as strong as itself. Judging from appearances, I should say that before long the Arve would conquer the Rhone ; but as far as the eye could follow it, the latter maintained its purity by the side of its unwelcome neighbour. Cheever delighted to dwell upon this as an illustration of the difference between Romanism and Protestantism, as those who have read his ‘ Wanderings of a Pilgrim ’ so well remember. We saw in it also these two things: ‘ Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers’ (2 Cor. vi. 14), and ‘Evil communications corrupt good manners’ (1 Cor. xv. 33). Then we hastened home, refreshed and strengthened for the duties of life by the wonderful things we had seen and heard.” Swiftly and silently the evening shadows began to lengthen. But the shadows were transfigured by the richer radiance which, with their approach, fell across the pathway of Gawin Kirkham’s pilgrimage, and spoke to him of heaven.
Tokens of Esteem
Tokens of esteem and love; the gathering round his life of kindred fellowships ; the harmonious setting of day unto day in a gracious and glad environment—as when the purple pall of the sun’s farewell glorifies the mountains, outlined against the sky— these were the signals of the eve, though he knew it not. One such was a touching gift, received in 1887, from the members of a Women’s Bible Class, conducted at Hackney by Mrs. Seymour, to whom he had ministered the Word of God at intervals during several years. It consisted of an inkstand, suitably inscribed, and accompanied by the following letter:— “ Will you please accept the small token of love we now present to you? It is offered with a real feeling of respect and affection. For seven or eight years you have kindly presided amongst us at every social gathering of our Bible Class, and we have always received comfort and instruction from the words that God has given you from time to time to speak to us ; and some, by his mercy, through your means have been induced to turn ‘from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God.’ We trust and pray that your life may be long spared to proclaim the glad tidings of salvation; and that every one of the undersigned may meet you at last in the glory, where with
‘Nothing else to do, We shall tell the wondrous story, How the Lord has brought us through.’”
To this are appended the names of one hundred and thirty-two women, whose tribute of gratitude, we may be quite sure, brought comfort and gladness to Mr. Kirkham’s heart. It was in the following year, that, for the first time, the lamp of life began to fail. Overwork induced prostration, and in February he was ordered to the seaside, where a period of rest induced strength to return awhile. But from this time such attacks of weakness followed annually with almost painful regularity. It was no longer possible to labour for years together without a holiday, and hence in August we find him again in Switzerland. One of his letters to the writer at this time may serve as an example of many others which are cherished as tokens of his love:—
A Letter Home
“ Hotel de Stalden, Stalden, Switzerland, “August 31st, 1888.
“ My Dear Cockrem,—This kind of life is all very well in its way ; but I am quite ready to come home, and eager to recommence the ordinary duties of life. It is a great mercy that it has pleased God to give you and me a real love for the work which in his providence He has assigned us. We have repeatedly met men on this tour who have been sighing to think that their holidays were so nearly over; whereas, if I were to meet you at the office this morning, instead of renewing my descent of this lovely valley, it would be more according to my heart’s desire. The Lord bring me to you in due course, and meanwhile give you all the wisdom you need in managing the affairs of the office. . . . My friend’s chief idea is motion. He looks upon reading, writing, and resting, as things which may be done at home ; but here the proper vocation is 'onward and upward.’ So we have been kept ‘ on the trot ’ day after day, and it has only been possible to write on wet days, or when we finished our day’s journey earlier than usual. Beyond one letter to Mr. MacGregor from Chatillon, I have only written to you and Mrs. K., whom I have informed from time to time of our journeyings with tolerable completeness. Yesterday, however, I managed to write from Zermatt an account of the tour for the Lancaster Observer, which covered seven pages twice the size of this. “ From Chatillon, where I last wrote, we went up Val Tourmanche to Breuil. That was Tuesday’s work. The first nine miles was done in a carriage to save myself for the next day, which I knew, and had known all along, would be the hardest in the tour, ie, the crossing of the Theodule Pass, 10,899 feet above the sea. The hotel at which we stayed is the last house on the Italian side. The majestic Matterhorn had been the chief object of interest in coming up the valley ; and as we sat on a form outside the hotel, and watched the last glow of the evening sun illuminating the fringe on his head, elevated thousands of feet above us, it was a sight never to be forgotten. The interest of that evening was further heightened by looking through a telescope at a cabin on a ledge by the Great Tower, where some hardy adventurers had gone to pass the night, intending to finish the ascent next day. What a mite that cabin looked, perched on its elevated ledge, and what a magnificent view its occupants must have had of the world of mountain and valley so far below them in that glorious sunset! While we were absorbed in gazing up at those awful heights, we were startled by the thunder of an avalanche from a neighbouring mountain, but so far away that by the time the sound reached us, all we could see was a tiny stream of white gliding down the rock. “ Next morning we girded ourselves for the Theodule Pass. We were up soon after three, and off soon after four. The moon and the stars shone brightly, as if to bid us God-speed, as we slowly ascended the upland pastures, treading on the crisp, frosty grass ; and then winding among stony paths till we reached a roofless hut, where we had some coffee brought from the hotel. By this time the sun had risen, and was glowing on the peaks behind us, the Matterhorn on our left being consciously proud of showing the first rosy tints, and proclaiming the break of day to the lesser heights, which seemed to wait upon him as his humble vassals. “We then entered upon the eternal snow, ascending by paths made by previous travellers, and by eight o’clock we stood on the summit. What a panorama! Here, at an altitude of nearly 11,000 feet, we were surrounded by snowy plains, and snowy peaks towering thousands of feet above us, the glorious sun shining upon us all from a cloudless sky. But, as is so often the case, the unexpected happens. Here amid these desolate regions was a tiny cabin or hotel, where we had warm soup by a comfortable stove. Here also were other tourists, some of whom had slept here, and already been to the top of the Breithorn, more than 3,000 feet above us. What amazing activity and self-denial is manifested by mountaineers! If but half of it were brought to bear upon the evangelization of the world, what a marvellous change would be witnessed in a year! “ Our guide and ourselves were now roped together, my green vail put on to protect my face from the snow and sun, and we began the descent. In little more than an hour we left the snow and took to the rocks, and soon after mid-day arrived at Zermatt, having descended more than 5,500 feet— which I paid for by three blisters on my own feet! “ Yesterday my friend wanted me to start with him for another five hours’ climb ; but I told him I would climb no more, so he went alone while I rested and wrote. Later in the day we took a carriage, and drove down the valley of St. Nicholas, twelve miles, and then walked on here, eight miles further, arriving soon after seven. “ We are now making our way to the Lake of Geneva, and shall probably spend Sunday at Fryburg. Adieu !
“ Affectionately yours,
“ Gawin Kirkham.”