"YE MUST BE BORN AGAIN"
~100 WELL - KNOWN
MEN IN ALL
RANKS OF LIFE
The Dundee Christian Hero
ROBERT ANNAN, the Christian Hero, Dundee, led
a very wild life, giving way to drink, and finding
himself more than once in prison. Sent to America, he
only sank deeper into sin, and for a time literally was a
helper to "feed swine." Then he enlisted in the 100th
Regiment and returned to Aldershot. The regiment being
ordered to Gilbraltar, he deserted, and joining the ship
"Edgar," finally returning to his father's house a sadder
and a wiser man.
As yet Robert Annan knew only his own righteousness
and strength. He had abandoned the tavern, the theatre,
and his old companions. He became proud of his newly-
begun moralities, and began to reckon himself "as good as
there was any use for." When the doctrine of the new
birth was discussed, he poured contempt upon the very
idea of being born again, and went the length of saying
that the narrative of our Lord's life was got up by design-
A few days after this discussion he went, in the strength
of his new reformation, to a public-house, to fetch away
from the scene of temptation a friend of his own. His
friend signified his willingness to go, if Robert would
consent to drink a single glass. He did so, but im-
mediately the desire to drink another, and remain with
the company, took possession of him. The rest I need not
tell; a drunken carousal followed. Next morning he
looked around upon the total wreck of his resolutions, his
reforms, and his hopes. The dog had returned to his
vomits. He was filled with confusion and alarm. "What!"
he said to himself, "has it come to this again? Am I past
all redemption? Surely I have sold myself to the devil!
What shall I do?"
Chagrin at the failure of his good intentions and solemn
vows confounded his pride and stung him to the quick.
The gall and wormwood of remorse embittered his soul,
and a melancholy feeling of hopelessness began to possess
That night he was so far humbled as to go to a revival
meeting--one of a series of meetings then being held in the
Kinnaird Hall. In those days (1860-61) the Spirit of God
was working very gloriously in the town of Dundee, and
throughout the land. DUNCAN MATHIESON, who had been
signally owned of the great Master in the conversion of
many souls, was preaching. During the meeting, Robert
felt as if he were a target for every shooter; the arrows of
conviction stuck fast in his conscience, eternal realities
burst upon his view, and the powerful strivings of the
Holy Spirit baffled his endeavours to maintain a sullen
At the close of the meeting he felt disposed to join the
company of weeping inquirers, but shame prevented him.
As he stood upon the doorsteps a young man exhorted
him to decide, and then bade him good-night, saying,
"We shall meet at the Judgment-Seat." "The Judgment-
Seat," repeated the trembling sinner to himself. "Yes,
yes, it is true I must go there." Every old truth seemed
now to flash new light into his soul.
Just as he was going to enter the inquiry-meeting, the
hall door was closed in his face, and he reeled down the
steps, exclaiming, "Great God, am I shut out of salvation
for ever?"Away he went to the house of a friend, who
assured him that he might find an entrance into the hall
by another door. In breathless haste he returned to seek
the door, but in vain.
At the midnight hour he entered the room of JOHN
MACPHERSON and stood before him, his eyes wild and
red with excitement, and his countenance black and
terrible. His whole body, a frame of iron, shook and
quivered. Knowing something of the man, I feared he
was about to lay hands upon me and take vengeance
for some words of reproof. Very different was the case.
Robert had now no blows but for himself, and with words
of keen and cutting self-condemnation, he asked the
question of questions: "what must I do to be saved?"
I pointed him to the Lamb of God, but in vain; Robert
went away as he came, smiting on his breast and calling
In his wretchedness he resolved to retire to the top of
the Law, a hill which rises almost from the banks of the
Tay, and overlooks Dundee, and spend the night in soli-
tude and prayer. But although a child could find its way
to the summit, and he had been familiar with the hill and
its environs from infancy, Robert failed to reach the
sought-for solitude. "I could see no hill," he afterwards
said to me; "the mountain of my sin rose before my eyes,
and the wrath of God like a mist blinded me." A voice
then seemed to say, "Go to Camperdown woods, where
you used to desecrate the Lord's day, and end your exist-
ence." As he pondered this suggestion he said to himself,
"If I do so, what next?" He shuddered at the thought,
and turned his back on Camperdown woods. Then the
voice said, "Go to Reres Hill, where you used to break the
Sabbath, and pray to God on the spot where you sinned,
and He will forgive you."
Robert did not go to Reres Hill to do penance; but
returning home, he went to a hay-loft, where, during the
night and all next day, for the space of thirteen hours, he
lay on his face before God, and with agonising cries,
pleaded for mercy. Strange, indeed, was the scene
enacted in that hay-loft. Too familiar had that sinner
been with deeds of violence and of blood; but the hay-loft
struggle was more terrible than any he had ever passed
through. Surely the angels were looking down upon that
once hardened blasphemer, and exclaiming, "behold, he
prayeth[!]" Light and darkness were in conflict; grace and
sin were striving for the mastery; Christ and the devil
contended for that soul, whilst Heaven and Hell seemed
to hold their breath in expectation of the issue.
Alarmed at his absence, his parents and sister sought
him next day, and discovering him by hearing his groan-
ings in the hay-loft, induced him to enter the house; but
he could neither eat, drink, nor sleep. For three days the
conflict went on, his darkness the while deepening, his
anguish growing more keen, and his burden more intoler-
able, as he lay bemoaning himself and crying with a
piteous voice for help.
I went to see him, and found him in a darkened room,
alone, and upon his knees, panting and pleading for mercy
like one who had not five minutes to live. Like many an
awakened sinner, he was evidently seeking peace with
God by trying to pray himself into a better state of heart,
instead of looking out to Jesus as "the Lord our Righteous-
ness." "Robert," said I to him, "you are looking for a
sign from Heaven. You think if you heard a voice assur-
ing you of salvation, or felt some strange thing within
you, you would then believe and rest on Jesus. God gives
you His Word; why will you not rest on that? The
Gospel of Christ 'is the power of God unto salvation to
every one that believeth[.]' Believe, and it will be the
power of God unto salvation to you. 'Believe on the Lord
Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved[.]' Jesus says, 'him
that cometh to [M]e I will in no wise cast out.'"
Robert confessed he had been seeking a sign from
Heaven; and had, in fact, but a little before we entered,
listened in the hope of hearing a voice say, "Robert, your
sins are all forgiven." Robert was near the Kingdom, but
he did not at that hour enter in. At the end of three days
he was enabled to lay hold upon the word of Jesus, "him
that cometh to [M]e I will in no wise cast out" (John 6. 37).
There he cast anchor; and although in after years he en-
countered many a storm, no blast was ever able to drive
him from his moorings. He was safe on the Rock.
Down went the proud flag of rebellion, with its mottoes,
SIN, SELF-WILL, SELF-TRUST, INDEPENDENCE OF GOD;
and up went the banner of Jesus and Salvation, and on the
banner was written "LOVE." Old things had now passed
away, and all things were become new.
For years he witnessed a noble confession. Then on
his way to work at the Docks, he observed a youth in the
water, plunged in, reached the spot where the boy was
struggling, but the current proved too strong. The boy
was saved, but ROBERT ANNAN, who might have saved
himself by letting go the boy, was drowned. Waving
his hand as if bidding farewell, he went down--no, not
down, but up, up to be "for ever with the Lord."
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