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The Presbyterian of the South : [combining the] Southwestern Presbyterian, Central Presbyterian, Southern Presbyterian. [volume] (Atlanta, Ga.) 1909-1931, October 02, 1918, Image 3

Image and text provided by Library of Virginia; Richmond, VA

Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/10021978/1918-10-02/ed-1/seq-3/

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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

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