Born: May 13, 1839, Montrose, Angus, Scotland.
Died: August 22, 1885, Portree, Scotland, of an accident.
Mackay was the husband of Mary Loughton Livingstone (married 1868, Kingston upon Hull).
He graduated from the University of Edinburgh and initially worked as a doctor.
His conversion story is so remarkable that we include it here as it was published in The British Evangelist, January 1879.
The Hospital Patient
Before I came to this place I was assistant-surgeon in an hospital; and in a variety of forms I saw a vast amount of human misery. But it was not all misery. There were patience, and resignation, and hope, as well as pain, weariness and despair. I had known something of the power of religion—that is, I had seen it in others. In my home, far away, I had seen its power to sanctify sorrow, to invigorate the mind, and to bless.
My mother was a Christian; and she had prayed for my eternal wellbeing, striven for it; hoped, perhaps against hope, that I should some day be brought under the influence of the gospel, be savingly converted to God—become His child by surer and more lasting ties than I was her own. Against hope, I say; for I was wild and reckless, even in my boyhood.
I left home, unchanged; passed through the earlier stages of my professional career unchanged, only for the worse. I cared nothing for my mother’s God: I forgot Him; that is, as far as I could I banished Him from my mind. In the subsequent stages of my professional history, I removed still further away from my home, and further, if possible from God: far, far from Him, by wicked works.
Professionally, Iwalked the hospitals,passed examinations, and was said to be a promising man. Morally, I was degraded. My companions were among the most dissipated of medical students, and from this cause principally, I became so seriously involved in pecuniary embarrassments that I occasionally had to sell or pawn all my available personal property tocarry on the game,as I said.
One day a poor fellow was brought in, badly injured by a fall. He was a bricklayer’s labourer; the round of a ladder had broken under his weight while he was ascending with a hod of mortar, and he was, in consequence, precipitated from a considerable height to the ground, with fearful violence.
There was no hope for him. All that could be done was to alleviate pain, and in this we were tolerably successful. The man knew that he should die, for his mind was clear; and he asked me, on one occasion, how much longer he had to live. There was no reason for reserve, and I told him what I thought.
So long!said he, when I told him;I thought it would have been sooner; but He knows best.
Yes, perhaps I do, my friend,I said, soothingly.I believe you will last as long as that.
Yes, sir; but I meant something else,said the poor fellow, faintly smiling.
Have you any friends for whom you would like to send?I asked.
The man shook his head: he was alone in the world, he said; but his lodgings were not so far off, and if I would not mind, he would like the people he had lodged with to be told of his accident, and perhaps the woman would come to see him, as he owed her a trifle of money, which he wished to pay her. There was enough in his pocket, he said, to do this, or was when he had his fall.
His request was complied with: The woman was sent for, and came to see her poor dying lodger two or three times, as I understood, though I never saw her, and knew nothing of the nature of any communications that passed.
My predictions were verified. The man lingered about a week, and then died. Of course, I saw him daily, and oftener, all the while he lasted, but very few words escaped his lips. I noted only a peculiar expression of calmness, and quiet happiness, almost, on his countenance, at which I rather wondered; for his pain at times must have been excruciating. Well, the man died, and of course certain formalities were immediately necessary, at which I was present.
What shall we do with this, doctor?the nurse asked, holding up a book.
What is it?
The poor fellow’s Bible, sir; the woman brought it to him the second time she came to see him, because he had asked her to do it. And up to the last, he was reading it as often as he could get a little ease, and when he could not read, he kept it under his bolster.
Could I believe my own eyes? It was the Bible which had once been my own; the Bible which my mother had put into my hands when I was a youth, first leaving home, and which afterwards I had sold—yes, Sold: to supply some trifling need in the days of my profligacy, when, as I have said, almost all my personal property went in the same way for the same purpose. Yes, there was my own Bible, or what had once been mine; my name written there by my mother’s own hand, still unerased, with the passage of Scripture she had written underneath, yet legible.
I had sufficient control over myself not to betray the emotions of my mind, and I even found words to say to the nurse in a tone of assumed indifference:It is of no consequence; I’ll take care of the book.
I took the Bible home with me. As to money value, it was worth nothing, for it was dirty, torn in places, with many leaves loose. It had evidently been long and well used. Long comparatively, I mean, for not very many years had passed since it left my own hands. Possibly it had had no other possessor besides myself and this poor hospital patient; but this of course, I never knew. But I knew one thing, that a better use of it had been made after it passed away from me than ever before. Almost every page, as I turned it over, bore testimony to the care and diligence with which it had been perused, in pencil and pen marginal marks, or interlineations.
And I could repeat, now, passage after passage thus indicated, which doubtless had been the solace of the Bible’s poor possessor in times of doubt or trial or difficulty, and had smoothed his passage to the grave, and lighted it with heavenly glory. No wonder that he was so calm and happy!
Its Poor possessor, I said, Well, he was poor in this world, and friendless, and unknown: yet, as I firmly believe,rich in faith, and an heir of the kingdom that God hath promised to them that love Him.
Shall I write more? Shall I say that that strange event was the turning-point in my history? that the accusations of an awakened conscience drove me almost to despair, until was enabled to embrace the faithful saying, worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, even the chief; and that my new discovered Bible is dearer to me than all the books in my library, because the gospel it contains has been made to me, though faith in Christ, the power of God unto salvation!
Mackay was eventually ordained, and in 1868 became pastor of the Prospect Street Presbyterian Church in Hull. Yorkshire; they were living in Sculcoates, Yorkshire, as of 1881.
Seventeen of his hymns appeared in W. Reid’s Praise Book in 1872.
If you know MacKay’s burial place,