John Paton’s Spiritual Upbringing

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A Father’s Legacy

The very discipline through which our father passed us was a kind of religion in itself. If anything really serious required to be punished, he retired first to his closet for prayer, and we boys got to understand that he was laying the whole matter before God ; and that was the severest part of the punishment for me to bear ! I could have defied any amount of mere penalty, but this spoke to my conscience as a message from God. We loved him all the more, when we saw how much it cost him to punish us; and, in truth, he had never very much of that kind of work to do upon any one of all the eleven—we were ruled by love far more than by fear.

As I must, however, leave the story of my father’s life—much more worthy, in many ways, of being written than my own—I may here mention that his long and upright life made him a great favourite in all religious circles far and near within the neighbourhood, that at sick-beds and at funerals he was constantly sent for and much appreciated, and that this appreciation greatly increased, instead of diminishing, when years whitened his long, flowing locks and gave him an apostolic beauty ; till finally, for the last twelve years or so of his life, he became by appointment a sort of Rural Missionary for the four contiguous parishes, and spent his autumn in literally sowing the good seed of the Kingdom as a Colporteur of the Tract and Book Society. His success in this work, for a rural locality, was beyond all belief. Within a radius of five miles, he was known in every home, welcomed by the children, respected by the servants, longed for eagerly by the sick and aged. He gloried in showing off the beautiful Bibles and other precious books, which he sold in amazing numbers. He sang sweet Psalms beside the sick, and prayed like the voice of God at their dying beds. He went cheerily from farm to farm, from cot to cot; and when he wearied on the moorland roads, he refreshed his soul by reciting aloud one of Ralph Erskine’s “Sonnets,” or crooning to the birds one of David’s Psalms. His happy partner, “Wee Jen,” died in 1865, and he himself in 1868, having reached his seventy-seventh year,—an altogether beautiful and noble episode of human existence having been enacted, amid the humblest surroundings of a Scottish peasant’s home, through the influence of their united love by the grace of God; and in this world, or in any world, all their children will rise up at mention of their names and call them blessed !

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Prayer is our most formidable weapon, the thing which makes all else we do efficient.

— E.M. Bounds

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