The last two years were notable in that they saw the removal from our midst as a Church of a significant number of well-known and mature Christians who had been spared to reach an advanced age. Not a few of them were godly women and mothers in Israel. Mrs MacKenzie was one of them.
Catherine MacKenzie (nee Martin) was born on 6 December 1906, the fifth child of a family of nine. Her parents, both of whom were professing Christians, sought by precept and by example to bring up their offspring in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and the fact that this daughter, while yet of a tender age, began to take an interest in spiritual things was no doubt a source both of encouragement and joy to them. Near her end, she herself left on record (for the good of her family, she hoped) a brief account of the manner in which she was awakened to consider eternal and spiritual realities. As far back as she was able to recall the days of her childhood, she had an awareness of the existence of God; so that, as she put it herself, He was seeing and hearing her if she did what was wrong. “I remember”, she wrote, “crying myself to sleep for saying a bad word when playing with other girls. As for swearing, I never heard it in my family, but I heard it in other families and would shiver when the name of the Lord was taken in vain.”
But it was brought home to her, according to her own account, that this was not sufficient for salvation: “There came a day when I came to believe that I was lost and lacked what the Lord’s people had”. She recalls how she trembled when the year 1921 was ushered in, the cause of her concern being that she was then 15 years of age and that another year had passed and she was not yet saved. It would seem that it was then she began to seek the salvation of her soul in real earnest, but it was by works and, in common with others, she was, in the Lord’s kindness, to discover that “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin”. Dutifully attending the means of grace, she found herself still exposed to condemnation by such scriptures as, “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it,” being again and again brought to her attention.
At last she realised that her “greatest sin” was that of giving offence to God by seeking to merit salvation in this manner, and she found herself, as she expresses it, in “no man’s land”, all alone and unable to disclose her condition to any creature. “But at last,” she wrote, “the peace of God filled my soul at family worship”. The portion blessed to her was, “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth”. That scripture remained precious to her throughout her life and more precious than ever with the coming of old age. She leaves on record: “I could fill pages to tell of the goodness of the Lord to me on this long wilderness journey”.
At the age of 20 she made a public profession of her faith. “I vowed to Him that if He helped me with His truth until our next communion, shy as I was, I would make a public profession of my Saviour, and I kept this promise.” Her allegiance to Him was to remain steadfast and true over the next 73 years until He brought her into His own immediate presence and beyond the reach of sin and Satan.
In 1932, she was joined in marriage to Roderick MacKenzie, whose obituary appears in volume 69 of this magazine. Their home was a favourite haunt of the Lord’s people, especially at Stornoway communion seasons and Roderick’s sudden death in 1962 was much lamented at the time. They had a family of two sons and one daughter.
Mrs MacKenzie was a spiritually-minded woman who loved the company of the Lord’s people and whose delight it was to speak of the things of the Spirit of God. As a mother in Israel she loved the young and exercised a sobering influence on them. She was a woman of prayer who earnestly sought the salvation of sinners, having a particular concern for all within her own family circle, but going beyond it to the very ends of the earth. For that reason, among others, her death is to be lamented. She was a Free Presbyterian by conviction and one who showed love and devotion to the Church’s testimony right to the very end.
She departed this life to enter, we fully believe, into the joy of her Lord on 25 October 1999. Her body now rests beside that of her husband in the dust of Aignish Cemetery “until the day break and the shadows flee away”.
To her sons, one in Stornoway and the other in England, together with her daughter, Flora, in New Zealand, who so tenderly and lovingly nursed her mother at the end, we anew express our sincere sympathy.
Rev John MacLeod
[This obituary was originally printed in the August 2001 issue of the Free Presbyterian Magazine.]