A Letter from Douglas Macmillan
This letter was sent from Aberdeen by the late Douglas Macmillan in September 1967 to Angus Smith who was at that time a minister in Snizort, Skye. A member of the Snizort congregation was a young policeman named Archie Angus Stewart. Gravely ill, he had been taken to a hospital in Aberdeen and was visited by Douglas Macmillan who described his ministry to him in the last months of his life. He died in his early twenties.
It has been on my mind to drop you a wee note about a young man from your congregation who has been in hospital since last August, and whom I have been visiting a great deal since then. I understand from his mother that you knew about him, and how ill he is, and she told me yesterday that she had a letter from you which helped her a great deal.
When Archie came here his was a soul in great distress. Before he had come here the Lord’s Spirit had been dealing with him. Indeed I believe he had some serious impressions for some time back. The very first time I saw him he told me that he was earnestly seeking Christ, and over the first seven or eight visits he did little but weep over his state and ask anxiously about the way of salvation: then, although not nearly so ill as now, his fear was that only his illness was making him seek Christ, and if he should get better he would lose his concern. From the way the Lord was dealing with him, I had little fear of that myself. His views of sin and lostness seemed so clear and deep — I have seldom seen the like. After seven or eight days he seemed -quietly – to have trusted in Christ and to have won peace of soul. Some days this peace would be disturbed and he would have great fear, and only when I read and explained some Scripture promises and prayed with him, would his fears subside. At this stage he could read a little himself, and I gave him a Gaelic Bible with large print. This was his delight, so that when not reading he would lie with his hand on it. One morning a nurse thinking he was depressed said ‘You should get a cheery book to read, Archie.’ ‘Nurse,’ he said patting his Bible, ‘I have here the only book I would ever want to read.’
His great desire was to talk about spiritual matters. On Sabbath evenings he would say again and again, ‘I wish I could have been in church today just to hear about Christ and to listen; I regret every Sabbath service I ever missed.’ He often repeated the words of Psalm 16 v.8. This verse seems to have been, and still is, a great comfort to him. Several times he said to me, ‘I would rather be ill and have as much of the presence of Christ and his love as I have, than to have been ill and not to have known him.’ Two weeks ago he said, ‘There is only one thing I desire to get better for, and that is to be able to tell others about Christ and his salvation.’
Over the last two weeks his condition, physically, has worsened rapidly. For the last few days he has been unable to see or hear at all, and it has been difficult to communicate with him. He is now really very helpless. For over two weeks he has been unable to swallow, and has been fed with a tube through his nose. His hands and arms are all that he can move. All along he said he had terrible noises in his head, and has, altogether, suffered a great deal of pain. While he could speak he used to say, ‘Were it not for God and his presence I would lose my mind.’ Despite all this I have been amazed at all the peace of mind he has displayed, and at how reconciled he has been to all that has happened to him. Only real grace, I believe, could have done this, and although it has been pitiful in one way in having to watch his deterioration, in another way it has been the most blessed experience of my life – I have seen God at work.
For the past few days the only way I could get through to him was by writing slowly on the palm of his hand. He has been so ill that sometimes I felt he could not know where he was. But always as soon as he felt my hand, he nodded and tried to say my name; he would pat his heart and point upwards and write in the palm of my hand ‘Pray’.
Yesterday he spoke, very distinctively, for the first time in days, and I could make out, ‘God is good: he is looking after me.’ After I left he prayed very earnestly with his parents — he has been doing that every day for the last three weeks, unless he was too ill to talk, and exhorting his father to seek Christ. He would repeat Psalm 16 v.8 and they could make out that this was the portion.
I don’t know that there can be much hope of recovery (apart from the miraculous intervention of God). But since he came we have been praying for him at our prayer meeting. I believe that, on the spiritual side, our prayers have been answered. I could go and detail many precious things about this boy but time does not permit. He has been a wonderful blessing to myself.
I thought, Angus, you would like to know how he was doing, and to have that brief account. He is one of your flock, and I know that you have been praying for him.
This letter was reprinted in the Explorer, December 2013 and is reprinted here with permission.
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