A Sketch of the Life of the Rev. D. N. Macleod
by Rev John MacLeod, Stornoway
A fuller version of this account of the Rev. D. N. Macleod’s life appeared under the same title, and in five instalments, in The Free Presbyterian Magazine, from August to December, 1974.
ON a fine summer evening in 1959 an observant visitor to Ullapool might well have taken note of a tall, erect minister making his way with measured tread to the church in the centre of that picturesque village. Had one followed him there, a closer look would have revealed a man, then in his eighty-seventh year, whose dignified bearing commanded the respect and attention of his congregation before one word was uttered by him. His hearers listened to him lay solemn emphasis on their need of working out their own salvation with fear and trembling, yet in absolute dependence upon a sovereign God. A glance at the notice board would have conveyed the information that this was the Free Presbyterian Church and that he was the Rev. D. N. Macleod.
With his death in 1967 the last male member of the Free Presbyterian Church who was also a member in the pre-Declaratory Act Free Church passed away. When that historic stand for the defence of the faith was made in 1893, he was in his twenty-first year, having been born in North Uist on 29th September, 1872.
Mr Macleod feared the Lord from his youth. On leaving school he came to work in a grocer’s shop in Portree and it was then, when about 16 years of age, that he “passed under the rod” and was brought “into the bond of the covenant”. One day, as he was entering the Free Church in Portree, the minister, a Mr Reid, was in the act of reading the fifth chapter of John’s Gospel and had come to the words, “And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” At the same time the Holy Spirit applied them effectually to the soul of the young man, convincing him of his sin and misery. Before long however, he was enabled to embrace Christ as He is freely offered in the gospel. Many years later he divulged to two brother ministers that these words of verse three of Psalm 103 were spoken first to his soul when standing outside that grocer’s shop in Portree:
most graciously forgive;
Who thy diseases all and pains
doth heal, and thee relieve.”
There, in that portion, he first cast his anchor.
In 1893, when the time of testing came he unhesitatingly cast in his lot with those to whom the defence of the gospel in Scotland had been committed. That choice he never regretted.
We cannot give any account of his call to the ministry but judging by the tenor of his life afterwards we may conclude that it was not without much heart-searching that he came to decide where the path of duty lay. After the usual course of study he was ordained, on the 1st of June 1908, to the office of the holy ministry and set apart to the work of a missionary in the Canadian Mission of the Church where he laboured in the gospel until near the end of 1910.
The next period of Mr Macleod’s ministry was to be spent in one of the most extensive charges in the Church, there being but one Free Presbyterian congregation in Harris when he took up his pastoral duties there in 1911. The call was signed by 1,100 persons and amongst them there was a goodly number of such as were truly the salt of the earth. For the space of thirteen years he was to preach the Word in Harris, reproving, rebuking, exhorting with all longsuffering and doctrine. About three years after his settlement there he was married to Miss Joey Macfarlane of Oban, and she continued to be a faithful helpmeet to him until her death in 1951. The first world war was to bring sorrow and heartbreak to many a fireside. Many choice young men of Harris, most of them in the prime of their manhood, fell on the battlefields of Europe, or were lost at sea. With those that wept, he wept.
Happy and privileged is that gospel minister who has in his congregation those who carry him on their spirits to the throne of grace. In the Harris congregation there were not a few such men and women. Long afterwards Mr Macleod would often refer to how he felt himself strengthened and encouraged by their very presence before him in the assembled congregation. With such hearers it was not surprising that at times he enjoyed much liberty in preaching. It was as if he were anointed with fresh oil on entering his Harris ministry. Long after his departure there were many who continued to remember his sermons, and the unction, earnestness and solemnity which characterised the preacher remained vividly before their minds. Opening a new meeting house at Kintail he preached from the words, “Lord, I have loved the habitation of thine house, and the place where thine honour dwelleth,” and one who was present that day vividly recalled how he prayed earnestly for the prosperity of the cause of Christ and the salvation of immortal souls. It was there, that very day, she told the writer, that she believed she came to realise that she had an immortal soul in dire need of salvation.
Numerous were the tokens given to him, both then and afterwards, in confirmation of the fact that his labours were not in vain in the Lord. His simple, methodical way of presenting the truth appealed to the common people and they heard him gladly. It was not by means of great oratorical powers that he so readily commanded their attention but rather by the plainness and directness of his preaching. The reverence with which he approached the particular portion of Scripture to be expounded was most marked. What was said of Rev. John MacRae (MacRath Mor) might very appropriately, we think, be said of him. Apparently it was true of that noted minister that instead of becoming elated under the influence of religious emotion, as others were when they enjoyed liberty in the pulpit, he was wont when he had most liberty to sink down in spiritual abasement under the weight of the Spirit’s unction. This characteristic was observed in Mr Macleod.
The time to depart from Harris came in 1924. In bidding farewell to the congregation in Strond he spoke from the words, “Finally brethren, farewell” (2 Cor 13:11). One who was present said that there were few dry eyes as he lovingly warned them to beware lest he should be a witness against them at the day of judgement.
By far the greater part of his ministry was to be spent in Ullapool in the parish of Lochbroom. Inducted on the 9th July 1924, he was to continue there until his death. In fulfilling his pastoral duties in Ullapool, Mr Macleod had to care for a flock which was scattered widely from Coigach to Scorraig. That his ministry in Lochbroom was a blessing to souls over the years cannot be doubted, but he himself, although careful to leave the final result with God, often lamented the fact that there was so little evidence of the seed sown having borne fruit in the conversion of sinners.
This state of affairs was by no means peculiar to the Lochbroom area, but alas! as is only too well known and too sadly evident, was generally the case throughout the land. On one occasion Mr Macleod summed up the widespread apathy to the gospel in this way, “It is a most solemn matter when a generation passes by the Lord Jesus Christ but infinitely more solemn when the Lord Jesus Christ passes by a generation.” But there were times, even up to the close of his public ministry, when under his preaching, the Lord’s people were enabled to rejoice with no small measure of that joy which is unspeakable and full of glory, while there were also occasions when careless sinners were made to tremble.
Mr Macleod continued to preach until the frailties of old age came to prevent him. If our memory serves us right, his last appearance in the church was on a prayer meeting evening when he based his address on the words, “The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” From then on, for the remaining six years of his life, he was confined to his home: prevented from waiting on God in the courts of His house but not from waiting on Him at the throne of grace. With what feeling and unforgettable poignancy would he often at family worship pray for the “poor parish” of Lochbroom and, mourning the fact that the Saviour was so great a stranger in the land, would often give utterance to the words, “Lord, how long will thine absence last!”
His love to the people of God crossed all denominational barriers. Yet he had a particular love for the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland. To those coming after him he left this on record, “I say this to the rising generation, that they have been left a goodly heritage and it is their duty to value that heritage, and leave it to those who come after them, unimpaired as others left it to them.”
He died on 5th April, 1967. Having kept the faith, he finished his course and departed to receive his crown. A servant and minster of God entered into the joy of his Lord to join the company of those of whom it is written: “And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever” (Daniel 12:3).