The History of Leith

March 23, 2012

Coronation Service IN SOUTH LEITH PARISH CHURCH. 1911

Coronation Service
The service held in South Leith Parish Church in the
forenoon, commencing at half-past eleven and concluding
a few minutes before one o’clock, was impressive. It was
attended by the following:—Town Council, School Board,
Parish Council, High Constables, Justices of the Peace,
Dock Commission, Chamberof Commerce, Leith Hospital.
Trinity House, 7th Battalion Royal Scots, Freemasons,
Consuls, Incorporation of Carters, and Friendly Societies.
The Town Council was represented by Bailies Hall.
Cochrane, and Dresner, Judges Bryson and Craig.
Councillors Muirhead, Harvey, Sutherland, Keddie,
Reid, and Davidson Gray. The majority of these representative
bodies assembled in the Trinity House, and
their gathering and procession into the church was
watched with interest by a large crowd in the Kirkgate.
There was a large congregation in tKe church, and the
following ministers took part in the service :—Rev. J. H.
M’Culloch, who, as moderator of the Kirk Session
appointed by the Presbytery of Edinburgh, presided ;
the Very Rev. Dr Mitchell, who preached the sermon :
and Revs. H. Alexander (Coburg Street U.F. Church),
T. Crerar (North Leith U.F. Church, Ferry Road),
J. A. Fleming (St Thomas’), J. Adamson (Summerside
Street U.F. Church), Thos. Paterson (St Ninian’s U.F.
Church), D. Kilpatrick (Newhaven U.F. Church),
J. Findlater (Wesleyan Church). The beautiful screen to
the organ gallery, recently gifted by a member of the
congregation, was partly hidden by crossed Union Jacks
in the centre, and the Scottish Standard at either side,
and where the staffs of the former intersected there
appeared a crown.
The service opened with the singing of the Doxology,
after which the presiding minister read the Proclamation
of the Coronation, the congregation meantime standing.
Then followed praise, prayer, and the reading of the
lessons (Joshua i. 1-9, and Romans xiii. 1-7), the praise
including the hymn “Come, Holy Ghost, our Souls
Inspire,” which has for a thousand years been sung
immediately before the crowning of the King. Immediately
preceding the sermon a collection was taken on
behalf of Leith Hospital and Leith Holiday Home.
The Very Rev. Dr Mitchell, taking as his text ” God
Save the King” (i Samuel x. 24), said—The first words
and acts of a king are noted and watched with peculiar
interest, because in them is supposed to be found some
indications of the future sovereign, and if we look back
on the first words and acts of different kings, even of Him
who wrought his first miracle at the marriage in Cana of
Galilee, we shall find that there is a something strikingly
indicative of their whole manner of action and mode of
speech in the interval which elapses also before they are
specially crowned. It so happens that in the present
instance some twelve months have elapsed between the
accession and the coronation of His Majesty, and the
varied utterances during that lengthened period, the many
actions he has performed, and the varied events that have
occurred during these twelve months have led his subjects
to form a far higher estimate than ever of him who is this
day crowned to reign over us. Hence it is that no king
has ever ascended the British throne with greater heartiness
on the part of the people and greater loyalty on
the part of the nation as a whole than has King
George. I know there are many who would have us
believe that a monarch has very little influence upon the
nation or upon his subjects, that he is little more than a
mere figurehead or puppet in the hands of his Ministers,
and that his influence upon the nation is comparatively
small. But all history gives the lie to this, and shows
that the influence of a king, whether for good or evil,
throbs in every pulse of the nation and in every quarter of
the kingdom. And we have no reason to believe that
that influence will be less, but greater than formerly in
the case of the present King. No doubt he is a constitutional
monarch, and glories in being such, but he will
surpass, and has already surpassed in influence the
greatest of those who claim to have an infallible right
to rule, and who claim also the divine right of kings to
govern wrongly. There can be no doubt of this, that
loyalty to the King ought not to depend altogether upon
our personal attachment to him or admiration of him.
When Peter and Paul gave the command that we were to
fear God and honour the King, we must not forget that
the king who was then upon the throne was Nero, the
most monstrous of kings and the bloodiest of monsters,
and yet even to him the apostles asked honourable subjection
for the sake of their country and of themselves.
I am afraid that in our day the mere respect for titles has
departed. Men do not pay so much honour to position ;
men gain nothing among their fellows by walking on
stilts of office. The nation has ceased to revere mere
titles or mere position, but the nation has not ceased, and
I trust never will cease, to reverence those who are our
superiors, and who show themselves to be such in their
whole bearing, in their whole manner and conduct, in
their whole readiness to minister to them who are least
* and weakest. We have cause to bless God that we have
this day ascending the throne not merely a King and
Queen who are British born, but a King and Queen who
are British to the core, with no interest in any other
country preferably to this. But there is this additional
advantage, that the King and Queen are the objects of
our personal regard. We revere them not only because
they are our monarchs, but because their whole personal
character commands respect, calls forth our affection,
and deserves our regard. The days are pretty nearlypast
when some of the former Georges would have been
tolerated on the throne, because their character was not
such as to command respect, but where there is love,
attachment, and loyalty to God then that loyalty is
founded on a rock that can never be shaken or moved.
If this be true, then I think it will fall in with the purpose
for which this day has been set apart, and where so many
intercessions have been offered on the King’s behalf, that
I should lay before you, in a few minutes, the four different
characteristics of our hew Monarch, which I think command
every one of us most loyally and heartily to pray
continually “God Save the King.”
The first is his high personal character. We should
never have known this to the full extent but for the
calumnies and slanders that were circulated before he
ascended the throne, in the hope of lessening his power
over this Empire. But these slanders—not uncommon
in the case of Princes of Wales—were so aimed at his
personal character, and so malignant that although many
of: .those around his throne advised him to treat them
with indifference, he himself, with simple truth as his
only shield, demanded that a thorough investigation
should be made. This investigation took place in a
Court of Law, and the result was that the slanderers
hid their heads for very shame, and were obliged to
confess that not a single accusation was proved, and he
emerged from the fiery trial with his character purer
than ever in the esteem alike of friends and foes, and far
worthier of their homage and regard. The result of all
this is: that .the private-character of the King is better
known to- us than the private character of any other king
ever “known before. He stands forth as an example of
self-denial and sacrifice, he stands forth as the most
temperate -monarch that ever ascended the British throne
^-it might not be a very strong testimony—as the perfect
pattern of abstemiousness and temperance, of such a
character-that his silent influence will do much to banish
our national sin—the sin of drunkenness ; to reverse the
sayifigHliat was common in days gone by “As drunk as a
lord,:” ancl substitute for it the newer and better saying
‘:”As:’sober-as the King.”
™ The second characteristic is the purity of the private
life-of the- -King and Queen. Various falsehoods were
circulated on this point, and all these falsehoods were
exposed and proved to be ‘utterly false, and the result has
been to :th’e relief of the whole nation. There is no family
throughout the whole kingdom where all the family
affections are cherished and all the family virtues
nourished sedulously and perfectly as that of our Royal
House. No father is more thoughtful and tender to his
children-“than-our King, no mother more wisely considerate
to her family than the Queen, who by this time
is” upon the throne. The King finds his chief pleasure
and affect-ion: and interest in the love and affection of his
family, :and the purity of their family life is an example
id ail-in every class and every position. They come to
the’throne’possessing these virtues, and will manifest
them””day:-by day in the land where unfortunately the
purity of-our family life is in many cases rapidly becoming
a-thing’*of the past.. We may feel that God has brought
oar- present King and Queen to the throne for such an
occasion- as this. Let us remember that the decay of the
family life:in -every other nation, when the purity of the
hearthstone has been violated, is the signal of the fall of
the nation. Rome did not long survive the degradation
of the household life of her people. It is said that for
more than 370 years, when Rome was at its best and
greatest, there was not a single instance of divorce or
separation between’ those who had been united in wedlock.
There is not a week in our national history where
there are not revelations of famSy scandals, of lives of
dishonour being led- among rich and poor that are not
merely a disgrace to our Christian name, but a disgrace
to:our Christian civilisation. We have before us the
prospect of a family life whose influence will permeate
through all classes of the community, and it will be with
as as it was with Rome of old, that when her family life
was pure her enemies thundered at her ga&s in vain, but
when her. family life became degraded, and divorce became
a constant practice, then the death-knell of Rome
was rung, and she left merely a name at which the world
grows pale to point a moral or adorn a tale.
A third reason why we ought this day most sincerely
and heartily and continually to intercede on behalf of
the King, is because he has shown himself to have a
keen sense of righteousness and responsibility both to
God and man—responsibility to God for having set him
over this great nation—responsibility which he shows in
great self-sacrifice, making preparations to go to India
at the risk almost of his life in order to see and study the
condition of his subjects there, in order that he might not
undertake a trust without having the means of fulfilling
it. This responsibility is shown in his regard for all
ranks and classes of the people both at home and abroad,
by his sense of duty and earnest desire to fulfil it, by his
words of the most loyal attachment to the Word of God
as a lamp unto his feet and a light unto his path, and as
the only sure strength of nations, by which it is his desire
to be guided. And so with this guiding sense of
responsibility on his part, we may well pray that God
may strengthen him to rise up to it and fulfil it, that not
merely at home but abroad men may feel that in being
subjects of our earthly sovereign they are also under the
reign of One by whom kings reign and princes decree
Then our King and Queen are characterised by a
width and depth of sympathy that has never been
surpassed. I need not dwell upon this ; the instances
are so numerous as to be well-known to all. For these
reasons we ought with one heart and voice to join not
merely in the prayer and praise we ought to render for
having such a King, but we ought to. bear in mind
continually as we remember him in our prayers that he
stands on the threshold of a very difficult reign. I do
not speak of our position abroad, where some of the
jewels have been loosening, and where nations are casting
covetous eyes upon these jewels. We have no reason to
fear or dread any foreign invasion at present. We have
far more reason to dread civil than foreign war; the
alienation of class from class, want of sympathy between
rich and poor. There must be some alteration of this.
We must feel we are brethren, and that we are not to
ruin our country in the vain hope of ruining ourselves
personally. Whatever be the sacrifice as regards ourselves,
we should more and more do what we can to
spread the spirit of universal brotherhood, of goodwill
and peace towards all men. And I am sure that first
and foremost in this enterprise will be he who has been
enthroned as King, and who stands as a mediator
between all classes, himself in fullest sympathy with all
to the exclusion of none. With Christ in our hearts and
King George over our country, our country may show in
her calm repose and unshaken majesty that happy is the
people in such a case, yea blessed is our nation whose
God is the Lord.
After the benediction had been pronounced, the service
concluded with the singing of the National Anthem.

Source-South Leith Church Magazine 1911

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