Handful of Stars


6. Doctor Davidson's Text


There are only two things worth mentioning in connection with Dr. Davidson, but they are both of them very beautiful. The one was his life: the other was his death. Ian Maclaren tells us that the old doctor had spent practically all his days as minister at Drumtochty. He was the father of all the folk in the glen. He was consulted about everything. Three generations of young people had, in turn, confided to his sympathetic ear the story of their loves and hopes and fears; rich and poor had alike found in him a guide in the day of perplexity and a comforter in the hour of sorrow. And now it is Christmas Day--the doctor's last Christmas--and a Sunday. The doctor had preached as usual in the kirk; had trudged through the snow to greet with seasonable wishes and gifts one or two people who might be feeling lonely or desolate; and now, the day's work done, was entertaining Drumsheugh at the manse. All at once, he began to speak of his ministry, lamenting that he had not done better for his people, and declaring that, if he were spared, he intended to preach more frequently about the Lord Jesus Christ.

'You and I, Drumsheugh, will have to go a long journey soon, and give an account of our lives in Drumtochty. Perhaps we have done our best as men can, and I think we have tried; but there are many things we might have done otherwise, and some we ought not to have done at all. It seems to me now, the less we say in that day of the past, the better. We shall wish for mercy rather than justice, and'--here the doctor looked earnestly over his glasses at his elder--'we would be none the worse, Drumsheugh, of a Friend to say a good word for us both in the Great Court!'

'A've thocht that masel'--it was an agony for Drumsheugh to speak--'a've thocht that masel mair than aince. Weelum MacLure was ettlin' aifter the same thing the nicht he slippit awa, and gin ony man cud hae stude on his ain feet yonder, it was Weelum.'

It was the doctor's last conversation. When his old servant entered the room next morning, he found his master sitting silent and cold in his chair.

'We need a Friend in the Great Court!' said the doctor.

'A've thocht that masel!' replied Drumsheugh.

'Weelum MacLure was ettlin' after the same thing the nicht he slippit awa!'

'For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.'


My Bible contains two stories--one near its beginning and one near its end--which to-day I must lay side by side. The first is the story of a man who feels that he is suffering more than his share of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. He thinks of God as very high and very holy; too wise to err and too good to be unkind; yet he cannot shake from his mind the conviction that God has misunderstood him. And, in his agony, he cries out for one who can arbitrate between his tortured soul and the God who seems to be so angry with him. Oh, for one a little less divine than God, yet a little less human than himself, who could act as an adjudicator, an umpire, a mediator between them! But neither the heavens above nor the earth beneath can produce one capable of ending the painful controversy. 'There is no daysman who can come between us and lay his hand upon us both!'

A God!

But no Mediator!

That is the first story.

The second story, the story from the end of the Bible, is the story of an old minister whose life-work is finished. He writes, in a reminiscent vein, to a young minister who is just beginning; and earnestly refers to his own ordination. 'Whereunto,' he asks, 'was I ordained a preacher and an apostle and a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity?' What is his message? He answers his own question. It is this. 'For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.'

A God!

And a Mediator!

Job needed a Friend in the Great Court; but, alas, he could not find one!

Paul tells Timothy that he was ordained for no other purpose than to point men to Him who alone can intercede.


'One God--but no Mediator!' cries Job.

'One God--and one Mediator!' exclaims Paul.

In one respect these two thinkers, standing with a long, long file of centuries between them, are in perfect agreement. They both feel that if there is a God--and only one--no man living can afford to drift into alienation from Him. If there is no God, I can live as I list and do as I please; I am answerable to nobody. If there are many gods, I can offend one or two of them without involving myself in uttermost disaster and despair. But if there is one God, and only one, everything depends upon my relationship with Him. And if I am already estranged from Him, and if there be no Mediator by whose good offices a reconciliation may be effected, then am I of all men most miserable.

'One God--but no Mediator!' cried Job in despair.

'One God--and one Mediator!' exclaims Paul, in delight.


'One God--and one Mediator!'

It is the glory of our humanity that it needs both the one and the other. We need a God and cannot be happy till we find Him. The instinct of adoration is in our blood, and we are ill at ease until we can find One at whose feet we can lay the tribute of our devotion. We need a Mediator, too, and are at our best when we recognize and confess our need of Him. It is, I say, the glory of a man that he can yearn for these two things. The most faithful and intelligent of the beasts feel no desire for either the one or the other. We know how Dr. Davidson died. I said that his conversation with Drumsheugh was his last. I was mistaken. His last conversation was with Skye, his dog. When John, the serving-man, paid his usual visit to the study before he went to bed, the doctor did not hear him enter the room. He was holding converse with Skye, who was seated on a chair, looking very wise and deeply interested.

'Ye're a bonnie beastie, Skye,' exclaimed the doctor, 'for a' thing He made is verra gude. Ye've been true and kind to your master, Skye, and ye 'ill miss him if he leaves ye. Some day ye 'ill die also, and they 'ill bury ye, and I doubt that 'ill be the end o' ye, Skye! Ye never heard o' God, Skye, or the Saviour, for ye're just a puir doggie; but your master is minister of Drumtochty and--a sinner saved by grace!'

Those were his last words. In the morning the doctor was still sitting in his big chair, and Skye was fondly licking a hand that would never again caress him.

Skye, the noblest dog in the world, had no sense of sin and no sense of grace, no need of a God and no need of a Saviour!

Dr. Davidson, Skye's master, is a sinner saved by grace. And it is his sense of sin and his sense of grace, his need of a God and his need of a Saviour, that remove him by whole infinities from the faithful brute on the chair. 'A sinner,' as our fathers used to sing:

A sinner is a sacred thing,
The Holy Ghost hath made him so.

When the soul feels after God, and the heart cries out for a Saviour, it is proof positive of the divinity that dwells within us.


'One God--but no Mediator!' sighs Job.

'One God--and one Mediator!' cries Paul.

None! One! The difference between none and one is a difference of millions. None means nothing, one means everything. None means failure: one means felicity. None means despair: one means delight. None means perdition: one means paradise. The difference between 'no Mediator' and 'one Mediator' is a difference that can never be worked out by arithmetic.

'One God'--and only one!

'And one Mediator!'--only one!

But one is enough. It is only in the small things of life that I long for a selection; in the great things of life I only long for satisfaction. When my appetite is sated, and food is almost a matter of indifference to me, I like to be invited to choose between this, that, and the other. But when I am starving, I do not hanker after a choice. I do not want to choose. Put food before me, and I am content. If I am taking a stroll for the mere pleasure of walking, I like to come to a place where several roads meet, and to select the path that seems to be most tempting. But if, weary and travelworn, I am struggling desperately homewards, I do not want to have to choose my path. I dread the place where many roads meet--the place where I may go astray. My felicity lies in simplicity: I want but one road if that road leads home. Robinson Crusoe climbs the hills of his island solitude and shades his eyes with his hand as he sweeps the watery horizon. He is looking for a sail. One ship will do: he does not want a fleet. There is but one way of salvation for my storm-tossed soul: there is but one Name given under heaven among men whereby we must be saved: 'there is one God and one Mediator between God and Men'--and one is ample. The difference between 'no Mediator' and 'one Mediator' is a difference that has all eternity within it.


But it is time that we came to close quarters. There are two people in every congregation with whom the minister finds it very difficult to deal. There is the man upon whose conscience sin lies very heavily, and there is the man upon whose soul it sits very lightly.

The first of these two perplexing individuals is afraid to approach the Mediator. He feels it to be a kind of presumption. It is difficult to argue with him. It is better to introduce him to Robert Murray McCheyne. McCheyne had the same feeling. 'I am ashamed to go to Christ,' he says. 'I feel, when I have sinned, that it would do no good to go. It seems to be making Christ a Minister of Sin to go straight from the swine-trough to the best robe.' But he came to see that there is no other way, and that all his plausible reasonings were but the folly of his own beclouded heart. 'The weight of my sin,' he writes, 'should act like the weight of a clock; the heavier it is, the faster it makes it go!'

And the second of these difficult cases--the man upon whose conscience sin sits so lightly--I shall introduce to Dr. MacLure. As Drumsheugh told Dr. Davidson on that snowy Christmas night, 'if ever there was a man who could have stood on his own feet in the Day of Judgment, it was William MacLure.' Through all his long years in the glen, the old doctor had simply lived for others. As long as he could cure his patients he was content; and he was never happier than in handing the sick child back to its parents or in restoring the wife to the husband who had despaired of her recovery. If ever there was a man who could have stood on his own feet in the Day of Judgment, it was William MacLure. Yet when the old doctor came to the end of his long journey, his soul was feeling after the same thing--a Friend in the Great Court, an Intercessor, a Mediator between God and men!

'We have done our best,' said the old minister, in that last talk with his elder, 'we have done our best, but the less we say about it the better. We need a Friend to say a good word for us in the Great Court.'

'A've thocht that masel,' replied the agonized elder, 'mair than aince. Weelum MacLure was 'ettling aifter the same thing the nicht he slippit awa, an' gin ony man cud hae stude on his ain feet yonder, it was Weelum.'

And for minister and elder and doctor--and me--'there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.'