Jubilee of Rev. Malcolm MacLean
On Friday 2nd October a congregation of approaching two hundred, with representation from several denominations, gathered in Stornoway Free Church (Continuing) for a service organised by the Free Presbytery of the Outer Hebrides. The occasion was the ministerial jubilee of Rev. Malcolm MacLean, who was ordained to the ministry by the Presbytery of Lochcarron on 5th October 1965, Lochcarron being his first charge. Mr MacLean was translated to North Tolsta in 1973, where he remained until his retirement from the pastoral ministry in 1996. He now lives in Shawbost on the Isle of Lewis. Mr MacLean has remained active, preaching the gospel throughout the Western Isles and beyond and overseeing a weekly prayer meeting in Bragar on the west side of Lewis.
Rev. Graeme Craig, Minister of Stornoway and Moderator of Presbytery, conducted public worship, with the sermon being preached by Rev. John Morrison (retired), a former Minister at Shawbost. Mr Morrison’s text was 2 Timothy 4:6-8, in which Paul, by then in prison and awaiting death, declares to Timothy how he has fulfilled his ministry and is soon to receive his crown from the Lord. Timothy needs to hold fast to pure doctrine. Mr Morrison made four points:
Paul’s ministry was a balanced ministry, for he “kept the faith.” There was a symmetry about it, as with a well-designed building. There was Paul’s piety: he was an exceptionally principled man, prepared to suffer for his godliness at the hand of the Jews and Gentiles. There was also his ability: he was the most outstanding exponent of doctrine yet he could condescend to the weak in things indifferent, and without compromise. There was his zeal, both for lost sinners, even where others had not laboured, and for believers and their progress. Finally there was his common sense: when caught in the storm at sea when on the way to Rome Paul did not look for a miracle but sought a place where the boat might beach (Acts 27); also when the Ephesians rioted he did not blaspheme their goddess but preached the truth concerning God to them (Acts 19,20). Paul had a clear conscience: he had never deliberately distorted the truth.
Paul’s ministry was an accomplished ministry. He desired to be with Christ, yet there was work to be done on earth. When a believer desires to leave this world he may have a secret discontent with his lot here. We may learn from the Lord in John 17:24: He did not desire to be glorified until His work was finished. We must analyse our motives. God has given us a work to do and only when that work is finished will we desire to be with Christ for the right reason.
Paul was aware of his imminent end. He knew that “the time” or “season” of his departure was at hand. What we are reading here is the last page of the book of his life, for it is probable that he was executed in AD 64. In his mind there was the thought of sufferings ahead. Grace to face our end is given at the time when it is needed, and just the measure of grace required. Martyrs face their death with courage, and even with joy. We think of Stephen in Acts chapter seven, or the covenanter James Renwick, who uttered these triumphant words: “Farewell, beloved sufferers and followers of the Lamb! Farewell, Christian intimates! Farewell, night-wanderings in cold and weariness for Christ! Farewell, sweet Bible, and preaching of the gospel! Farewell, sun, moon, and stars, and all sublunary things! Farewell, conflict with a body of sin and death! Welcome, scaffold for precious Christ! Welcome, heavenly Jerusalem! Welcome, innumerable company of angels! Welcome, general assembly and Church of the firstborn! Welcome, crown of glory! Above all, welcome, O Thou blessed Trinity – and one God; O eternal One, I commit my soul unto Thy eternal rest.”
Our Saviour had a Mediatorial consciousness of the sins of His people, which caused Him to lament, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death” (Matt. 26:38), and to cry on the cross, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). But the storm of His sufferings passed and He committed His spirit into the hands of God.
Paul was expecting a crown of righteousness. We cannot understand righteousness apart from law. We must see it in two senses: righteousness in the sense of being free from moral imperfection and righteousness in relation to justice. In the experience of a believer there may be sixty years or more between justification and glorification. We should study the Shorter Catechism, including Question and Answer 38: “Q. What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the resurrection? A. At the resurrection, believers being raised up in glory, shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment, and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoying of God to all eternity.” This is the crown of righteousness which awaits the Christian as his reward at the end of life’s journey.
Mr Morrison concluded with an application suitable to the occasion. Christ did not bring in a covenant new in origin but new in administration. This happened at the rending of the temple veil. The apostles had a special place and gifts: there is no parallel between them and today’s ministers, for they had to stamp an authority on the new covenant. Yet nonetheless we may learn from them in terms of the work of the ministry.
To spend fifty years in the ministry, with unblemished character and faithful teaching, is a cause for much thankfulness. To have kept one’s ordination vows, and not out of fear, and to have been kept by the power of God, is a great thing. There are many difficulties in the ministry, which are not known by those who are not in it. To have a winsome ministry, to feed the saints and to be a means of saving others – these are reasons for much personal thanksgiving to God. People need to encourage their ministers. It is our sincere hope that Mr & Mrs MacLean will be spared for many years. We wish the three daughters to be blessed, and the two grandsons.
Following the singing of Psalm 126:3-5 in Gaelic and the Benediction the MacLeans greeted the congregation at the door of the church.
The service was followed by refreshments served in Sandwick Hall. Rev. Graeme Craig presided and after the MacLeans had cut a cake decorated with the text of Psalm 115:12, numerous greetings were read out, including from Mr MacLean’s two former congregations. Presentations were then made. A framed scripture text was presented to Mr MacLean by Rev. Kenneth Macdonald, Minister of Scalpay, on behalf of the Presbytery: “And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered.” (2 Chron. 31:21) A bouquet of flowers was presented to Mrs MacLean by Mrs Finlayson, Brue. An envelope was presented to Mr MacLean by Mr Calum Iain Macleod, elder, on behalf of the Stornoway Congregation. Mr MacLean replied briefly, on behalf of himself and his wife, expressing thanks for the gifts.
Mr MacLean then called on three men to speak. Rev. John Morrison said that Mr MacLean was a cheerful Christian and his experience of him was that he was very hospitable. Rev. Angus Smith, whose wife is a sister of Mr MacLean, had known Mr MacLean from student days. He was very zealous for the Lord and never wasted time. He had known sad days but the Lord gives that to His servants so that they may be able to enter into the experience of their people. Mr Malcolm D MacLean, brother of Mr MacLean, referred to his wise spiritual counsel at a time when he had yet to find peace with God.
In reply Mr MacLean thanked Mr Morrison for his sermon and also thanked his wife, to whom he has been married for fifty-two years. He thanked Mr Craig too, as his Minister and the Moderator of the Presbytery, and the ladies who had provided the refreshments. He asked us all where we stood spiritually. The great encouragement for the Lord’s people is that heaven is not far away.
A most pleasant evening was brought to a close with worship, including the singing of Psalm 48:12-14 in Gaelic and prayer from Rev. Daniel Mackinnon. We wish the MacLeans continued health and strength and blessing in the service of their Master.