The History of Leith

March 16, 2012

JAMES HUTCHISON STIRLING.

JAMES HUTCHISON STIRLING.
On Friday—the igth—there passed away, on the
threshold of fourscore years and nine, James Hutchison
Stirling, one of the great thinkers of last century, and
one who, until prevented by the infirmities of age, was
accustomed to sit with us in South Leith at the Table of
Communion. I remember how, nineteen years ago, I
came to Edinburgh to hear him deliver the first University
Gifford Lectures ; they were the mature reflections of one
who believed that “the hidden secret of the Universe is
powerless to resist the might of thought,” and that when
it is unclosed it is a spiritual truth. Dr Stirling was one
of the earliest interpreters and deepest students of the
Hegelian philosophy. In his exposition of that system
of idealism, which exercised so deep an influence on the
thought of the igth century, he endeavoured to show
.that every step of the system is towards the immortality
of the soul, towards the freedom of the will, towards
God. In all his writings he was a strong opponent of
negative rationalism, of secularism, of every form of
materialism ; to him a universe recognised to be material
only were but Humanity’s grave.
In the Gifford Lectures Dr Stirling said: “I am a
member of the National Church, and would not willingly
run counter to whatever that involves.” He was
generally supposed to belong to the Broad Church party ;
and in so far as he was an “utter foe to religious rancour”
he was not “narrow;” but, he declared, “I_have to
confess that I would quite as soon wish to be considered
High as Broad, and that the party to which I do wish
to be considered to belong is the Low or Evangelical
one.”
He had a great longing for the Christian simplicity and
the Christian happiness of our forefathers. He had a
great reverence for the Scriptures. ” The Book is Jesus
and Jesus is the Book.” He had great faith in the saving
power of Christianity. It saved the world in the Roman
epoch ; the present epoch is in many respects similar
to the ancient; it is the same religion that will save the
world now.
Great philosopher as he was, Dr Stirling still recognised
that the humble pious Christian who performs his probation
on earth in full consciousness of the eye of heaven,
and has never heard of philosophy, is probably preferably
situated to the greatest philosopher that,,gver
lived. To-day we think of him, to use his own words,
“as patiently industrious, patiently loving—piously
penitent, piously hopeful—sure of a new world and a new
life, a better world and a better life, united to his loved
ones, there for ever in the realms of God, through the
merits of his Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.”

source-Souh Leith Church

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