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WILLIAM RAMSEY LAIRD, D. D.
Memorial Discourse, Delivered in Danville, Va., September 15th. By Rev. Walter W. Moore, D. D., President Union Theological Seminary. We have gathered here this evening to re member gratefully before God the life of one of Ilis beloved servants. For twenty-two years he lived and labored in this community, wear ing the white flower of a blameless life, adorn ing the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things, exemplifying daily the gospel which he preached, and, like his Master, going about doing good. Our eyes see him 110 more. lie 110 longer goes in and out among us, showing us daily what it is to walk with God. But in our hearts he still lives. Such a character, such a life, such a ministry do not cease to exert their beneficent influence when the man in whom they were embodied is called away from us. They abide still to bless the Church and community. And so, "he being dead, yet speaketh." We wish this evening to ex press to God our gratitude for the gift to us of a true man, a lovely Christian, a faithful minister, to recall some of the qualities that made his life a benediction to us all, and to recount some of the services that he rendered to the Church of God on earth. Sons of Rockbridge. The last time I had the privilege of speak ing in this place was two years ago, when you celebrated so happily the t ^ntietli anniver sary of his pastorate here. 1 recall that in 1113' remarks 011 that occasion I made some refer ence to the region in which he was born and the stock from which he sprang. One of the Valley counties of Virginia has within its bor ders one of the great natural wonders of Amer ica, a mighty arch of stone built by the Cre ator's hand high over a mountain stream, and known throughout the world as the Natural Bridge. It was inevitable that this stupen dous natural viaduct, over which the stage road passes, should give its name to the coun ty in which it stands, and accordingly that county is known far and wide as Rockbridge County. It lias always seemed to me that this massive and unshakable limestone arch of Nature's fashioning was a fitting emblem of the strong and sturdy people who settled that region and made it famous. It is there fore no surprise that Rockbridge County, with its substantial Scotch-Irish population, should have given birth to a remarkable number of useful men. Among them have been soldiers in all the wars of the United States, judges of both State and Federal courts, Attorney-Gen erals of Virginia and of other Commonwealths, representatives in State Legislatures and in Congress, including eight United States Sen ators who were born within a radius of six miles of Lexington. That county gave to the Republic of Texas its first President. The same county has furnished United States Min isters to France, Russia and Austria ; Gover nors to Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Tennessee and West Virginia; and, most cele brated of all the sons of Rockbridge, Cyrus II. McCormick, the inventor of the Reaper. This is a record, which, as Professor Latane has said, "may well challenge comparison with any other county in the land." No less remarkable are the contributions of this county to the ranks of the Christian min istry. I can myself recall the names of thirty ministers who were born in Rockbridge, and the list includes such men as Archibald Alex under, President of Ilampden-Sidney College And founder of Princeton Theological Semi nary; George W. Leybnrn, missionary to Greece; John Leybnrn, secretary of Publica tion, editor of the Presbyterian, and for twen ty-six years pastor in Baltimore; William Brown, editor of the Central Presbyterian ; Jacob Henry Smith, for thirty years pastor in Greensboro, N. C. ; William Henry Ruffner, Superintendent of Public Instruction in Vir ginia; John N. Craig, secretary of Home Mis sions; Thomas L. Preston, pastor of the First church, Richmond; John A. Preston, pastor of the First church, Charlotte, N. C. ; James II. Smith, pastor at Harrisonburg; G. B. Strick lor, professor in Union Seminary; and among those still living, II. R. Laird and A. F. Laird, brothers of your lamented pastor; John Ruff, of Bedford ; Emmett W. McCorkle, of Rock bridge Baths; Robert F. Campbell, of Aslie ville; Daniel P. Junkin, of Piedmont, S. C. ; W. M. Thompson, of Brazil; C. R. Womeldorf, of Texas ; E. R. Leyburn, of Durham ; J. G. Reveley, of Montvale, Va.; W. A. Reverley, of Sutton, W. Va.; II. W. Pratt, of Abbeville, S. C. ; Charles F. Myers, of Greensboro. X. C. ; II. W. Myers, of Japan; Samuel M. Glasgow, of Charleston, W. Va. ; and G. A. Wilson, Jr., of Grottoes, Va. In this goodly company of richly gifted min isters your pastor Mas an outstanding man. The external facts of his life can be stated in a few words. Biographical Sketch. William Ramsey Laird was born at Kerr's Creek, in Rockbridge County, Va., September JO, 1855. lie enjoyed the benefit of the care ful home training for which the Presbyterians of the Valley have ever been noted, and re ceived his academic education in the local schools of his community, and then at Hamp don-Sidney College and Washington and Lee University. lie received his theological edu cation at Union Seminary, where Dr. T. S. Wilson and I had the privilege of being in the same class with him and of knowing him with peculiar intimacy. I shall always count his friendship and intlucncc one of the great bless ings of my life. At our graduation in 1881 he was licensed by the Presbytery of Lexing ton and later in the same year ordained by the Presbytery of Memphis. He was pastor of Mason, Tabernacle and Center churches in Tennessee from 1881 to 1883; of Millersburg, Ky., from 1883 to 1887; of Nicliolasville, Ky., from 1887 to 1803; of the First church, Bris tol, Tenn., from 1803 to 1896; and of the T'irst church, Danville, from 1806 to 1018. In 1882 he was happily married to Miss Ella Penick, a daughter of the manse, well fitted by tem perament and training for the responsible po sition of a minister's wife, and to her stead fast affection, full sympathy and efficient co operation he was largely indebted for the suc cess of his ministry. She and their five chil dren survive him, rich in the memory of such a husband and such a father. It is not necessary that I should attempt any sketch of the work that he did as your pastor. You know even better than I what a plenitude of blessing these twenty-two years of loving and faithful ministry brought to this church and community. I have often thought of the goodness of God to the people of Dan ville in giving to this city the long pastorates of two such men as Dr. Martin and Dr. Laird. God has, of course, shown you Ilis goodness in other ways and other pastorates, but these are the two that I knew best. Both of them, by the dignity and purity of their character, by the breadth of their sympathy, and by their whole-hearted consecration as ministers of Christ, commanded the confidence and affec tion not merely of their own congregation, but of the entire community. The Minister of the Word. As a pastor Dr. Laird magnified his office in the pulpit and out. Our Book of Church Order, in a noble passage on the Minister of the Word, declares that "this office is the first in the Church, both for dignity and useful ness. The person who fills it has in Scripture different titles expressive of his various du ties. As he has the oversight of the flock of Christ, he is termed bishop (i. e., overseer). As he feeds them with spiritual food, he is termed pastor. As he serves Christ in the Church, he is termed minister. As it is his duty to be grave and prudent, and an example to the flock, and to govern well in the house and kingdom of Christ, he is termed Presbyter or elder. As he is the messenger of God, he is termed angel of the Church. As he is sent to declare the will of God to sinners and to beseech them to be reconciled to God through Christ, he is termed ambassador. As he bears the glad tidings of salvation to the ignorant and perishing, he is termed evangelist. As he stands to proclaim the gospel, he is termed preacher. As he expounds the word, and by sound doctrine exhorts and convinces the gain sayer, he is termed teacher. As he dispenses the manifold grace of God, and the ordinances instituted by Christ, he is termed steward of the mysteries of God. "He that fills this office should possess a competency of human learning, and be blame less in life, sound in the faith, and apt to teach; he should exhibit a sobriety and holi ness of conversation becoming the gospel ; he should ruie his own house well ; and should have a good report of them that arc without." As we read this description of the ministe rial office, we feel that Dr. Laird met these high requirements in a rare degree. Bishop, pastor, minister, elder, angel of the Church, ambassador, evangelist, preacher, teacher, blameless in life, sound in the faith, apt to teach, having a good report of them that are without ? all these things were true of him. He believed and taught a definite and Scrip tural system of theology. lie preached the pure gospel and nothing else. Nothing mere tricious or merely sensational was ever heard from this pulpit. ITe had a deep-seated love for reverence and order in the church ser vices. The people always knew that simplicity, dignity and propriety would characterize the worship of God in this place. And so, the con gregation, worshipping in the same spirit, fol lowing a devout and trusted leader, and nour ished by the unadulterated word of God, grew in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. An Abiding Monument. In addition to the spiritual results of Dr. Laird's ministry in the growth of the mem bership of the church and the development of all Christian graces among you, his pastorate was marked by the erection and equipment without debt of this noble church edifice and the adjoining substantial and well-appointed manse. Over the poreh of St. Paul's Cathedral in London is an inscription of Sir Christopher Wren, the architect of that great building, ending with the words si monumentum re quiris, circumspice ? "if you seek his monu ment, look around." So of Dr. Laird, if you seek his monument, look around. But this beautiful building after all is only the outward symbol ? his real and abiding monument is the