Remembering Hugh McDiarmid, Standard’s Second Editor
Remembering Hugh McDiarmid, Standard’s Second Editor

At this magazine, we speak often of Isaac Errett, our founding editor. So far as I am aware, his name has appeared in each issue of the magazine since the beginning in April 1866.

Can anyone name the editor who succeeded Errett? Anyone? Anyone?

Arron Chambers provided the answer—Hugh McDiarmid—in “Lifting Up Jesus,” an article about the magazine’s editors for our 150th anniversary issue (April 2016). But Arron provided only this brief description:

Errett’s successor was Hugh McDiarmid (June 10, 1837—August 15, 1901); he served as editor from 1888–92. McDiarmid was born in Kent County, Ontario, Canada. Some information about McDiarmid can be found on a genealogical website devoted to the J. Howell family. The website reveals, “The Rev. Hugh went to Cincinnati in 1882 where he was associated with Isaac Errett as editor of the Christian Standard; for a time he was President of Bethany College; then a professor at Hiram College.”

[Here is the footnote Chambers provided: Howell Family Genealogy Pages, accessed at www.jhowell.com/tng/getperson.php?personID=I650&tree=1]

That’s helpful information—but I decided to dig a little deeper. And while I couldn’t find a lot written about him, I found enough to produce a fuller picture of Hugh McDiarmid.

Here are excerpts from an article announcing McDiarmid’s move to CHRISTIAN STANDARD that appeared on page 3 the Jan. 6, 1883, issue.

_ _ _

CANADA.
FAREWELL TO BRO. M’DIARMID

I am requested by the churches of the Wellington Cooperation to send you a brief account of our farewell meeting with Bro. Hugh McDiarmid, who is soon to leave us to commence his duties on your excellent paper. The meeting took place on Monday the 18th . . . The following address was then read by Elder Parkinson, accompanied by a purse [money] presented by Elder James Black:

To HUGH MCDIARMID, Minister of the word of God.

Dear Brother: —We, on behalf of the members of the congregations of Everton, Erin Centre, Erin, Guelph, Nassagawaya and Mimosa, deem it expedient to avail ourselves of this opportunity, on the eve of your departure from among us, of conveying to you the respect and esteem in which you are held by the churches in this section of Ontario, where you have labored a portion of your time during the last ten years.

The clear, forcible, and edifying manner in which you have proclaimed the word of the Lord; the faithfulness and ability with which you have defended the truth once delivered to the saints, and the consistent Christian character you have manifested, have won our gratitude and endeared you to our hearts. . . . Although deprived of your teaching by your personal presence and living voice, we may yet receive helpful instruction for you as a writer, through the medium of the CHRISTIAN STANDARD, with which you are to be connected. . . .

It is with pleasure that we say you will take with you to your new field of labor our good will and best wishes for the prosperity of yourself and family. . .

Signed on behalf of the churches, James Black, Chas. McMillan, Robert Royce, John McMillan, John Steward, John Thompson, L. Parkinson, James Lediard, James Kilgour, David Stewart, Alex. McPhedran, J.W. Kilgour.

In reply, Bro. McDiarmid in a few words and with deep feeling referred to his labors amongst us, and to the many enduring friendships formed while here, the satisfaction he felt in having won and maintained the confidence and esteem, especially of the aged and faithful men in the churches, and that among all the brethren he could say that the friends of eight years ago were the friends of to-day. . . .

HILLSBURG, ONT.
JAS. LEDIARD

_ _ _

McDiarmid then spent several years working with Errett, until the latter’s death on December 19, 1888. Unless I overlooked it, there was no formal announcement of McDiarmid taking over as editor. Indeed, the following article refers to McDiarmid as “office editor” during his time at Standard. But McDiarmid’s writing load increased exponentially upon Errett’s death.

On page 10 of the Dec. 12, 1891, issue, was published a story under the simple headline, “PRESIDENT McDIARMID.”

_ _ _

WE OFFER OUR heartiest congratulations to the Trustees of Bethany College, on the handsome manner in which they have acquitted themselves in the responsible duty of choosing a President. As a capable and enterprising body, determined on a first-rate officer, it was the most natural thing in the world that they should make a raid upon the STANDARD office. That was to be expected. But that, out of our large and brilliant galaxy, they should select the bright and particular star for their own purpose at the first swoop, argues a very high order of ability.

It will readily be inferred by this time that the successor to [Alexander] Campbell, [William K.] Pendleton, [William H.] Woolery and [Archibald] McLean, is now H. McDiarmid, who for well nigh ten years has been office editor of the STANDARD, and who, since the death of its Chief, has presided over its most responsible departments. He was elected at a recent meeting of the Trustees.

While we can not but confess to a natural reluctance to surrender our well-founded claims on the services of Bro. McDiarmid, we should do ourselves a great injustice to seriously object to his acceptance of the honor, in which is recognized the merit and the accomplishments, which, if they have not been fully recognized before, it is due to his own modesty—a trait, by the way, which has been the common attribute of all his predecessors at Bethany.

President McDiarmid is in his prime, a man of pure ancestry and blameless life, a thorough man in all he does, and adept in the branches which it will fall to him to teach in college.

His training as teacher, preacher and journalist has fitted him admirably for his trust.

We are happy to announce that his pen will be retained on the STANDARD, for which he will write as regularly as heretofore. All the more difficult questions in doctrine and morals will still be referred to him, and we shall have the full benefit of his learning and skill in the departments which he has hitherto conducted. . . .

_ _ _

Alas, not quite 10 years later, the cover of the September 14, 1901, Christian Standard carried the man’s obituary. The headline, “PROFESSOR HUGH McDIARMID.*” had a footnote that referenced this information: “Born in Morpeth, Ont., June 10, 1837; baptized, 1857; graduated from Bethany College, 1867; married to Miss Mary Campbell, 1868; lived in Ontario, 1866-1883; Cincinnati, 1883-1892; Bethany, 1892-1896; Hiram, 1896-1901; died Aug. 15, 1901.”

[I don’t believe McDiarmid’s wife, Mary Campbell, was related to Alexander Campbell, founder of Bethany College, but I am open to correction.]

The article quoted Acts 11:24 (“He was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith”) and launched into a very laudatory remembrance of the man.

_ _ _

THIS PASSAGE [ACTS 11:24] describes our dead friend as accurately as it did Barnabas. Professor McDiarmid was a good man. That is the testimony of his associates in the office of the CHRISTIAN STANDARD, of the teachers and students in Bethany and Hiram, and of his neighbors in Canada and the United States. Those who did know him well smiled at his simplicity and his odd ways; those who knew him best thought only of his genuine goodness. Professor McDiarmid loved the truth and sought for it diligently. He prized it above rubies. He abhorred shams and insincerities as heartily as Carlyle. He was honest in his dealings. He rendered to every man his due. In buying and selling he thought of the other man’s interest as well as his own. He took advantage of no one’s ignorance and helplessness. He was the Golden Rule incarnate. He had the courage of his convictions. He would go to the stake for what he held, as readily as any Covenanter. Though, like David, he was of necessity a man of war, his heart was as tender and as gentle as that of a woman. He was generous with his money, and was ever ready to help those in need. He was the friend and advocate of every good cause. . . . A faithful and unvarnished account of his life and services would be his best eulogy.

Like other men, he had his limitations.  He was modest and unassuming almost to a fault. Strangers did not estimate him at a tenth of his real worth and ability. It is believed that he never knew himself or his full power. He was careless about his appearance. He was absent-minded, and would pass his friends on the street without recognition. He did not recall the names of his acquaintances. He did not kiss babies, and flatter their mothers. He could not pretend to feel more than he did. But his heart was sound and true. He was every inch a man. He grew from the first to the last on this with whom he had to do. His students came to regard him with reverence and sincerest affection. To their minds, he was both scholar and saint. His associates on the faculty found him a gracious and winsome personality. He never pressed his own claims or sounded his own praises. He was willing to take the second or the tenth place, . . .

In the printing-office he saw much of the seamy side of life. Sometimes he was deceived by those he trusted; but that did not cause him to despair of his kind. . . .

Professor McDiarmid served the church in several capacities. After his graduation he returned to Ontario, and labored as an evangelist. Good judges say that he was the ablest man they ever had. . . . He was not a popular evangelist in the sense that he attracted thousands. He lacked the voice and the animal magnetism to do that. His gifts were of another order. . . .

He did not astonish his audiences with copious citations from the dead languages. Like Paul, he would rather speak five words in a known tongue, and thereby help some soul, than to speak ten thousand words in an unknown tongue. . . .

He was really great at times. His sermon on “The Cloud of Witnesses” was one of the most original and striking addresses I ever heard from human lips. . . .

While preaching in Ontario Professor McDiarmid began to write for the papers. Later on he became editor of the Sentinel, of Toronto. Later still he removed to Cincinnati to help edit the CHRISTIAN STANDARD. He continued his editorial writing since leaving Cincinnati. His style was like himself. It was simple, clear and direct. He used superlatives sparingly. As a writer he preferred to discuss great themes. Matters of only local and transient interest did not appeal strongly to him. He wrote on “First Principles,” and on questions pertaining to life and godliness. He was a Prohibitionist, and gave the liquor traffic a thrust under the fifth rib whenever he could. He was a friend of missions at home and abroad. He wrote much and powerfully on this topic, and gave liberal space to other writers. He was interested in the great cause of Christian education. He was anxious to see all our schools adequately endowed.

Professor McDiarmid excelled in argument. He was a born logician. He had no superior in the brotherhood as a defender of the truths most generally believed among us. He had to deal with Spiritualists, Soul-sleepers, Christian Scientists, and with other propagators of serious error. Antagonists who thought themselves invincible, went down in defeat before him. . . . No man could be fairer in argument. . . . He could be severe and sarcastic. His severity and sarcasm were reserved for the most part for tricksters, for men who would assert anything, and resort to any kind of argument for proof. . . .

For a dozen years our friend was engaged in teaching. He had charge of the college in Winchester; he was president of Bethany for five years; for about the same period he has been Professor of Sacred Literature in Hiram. He was a teacher rather than an administrator. The mere details of administration were distasteful and irksome to him. He loved to deal with ideas and principles, with books and pupils. His proper place was in the classroom. The students found him approachable and companionable. . . . Since his death one of the strong men at Hiram said that Professor McDiarmid was worth his salary if he had taught nothing. . . .

Professor McDiarmid was a man of affairs. He married a wife and raised a family of five children. His home life was singularly beautiful and happy. He and Mrs. McDiarmid were of one heart and one soul. Both delighted in hospitality. Their children all received a collegiate education. A man who could raise and educate a family on the salary he received, and aid every other good cause as he did, and meet his obligations promptly, was a financier of no mean ability. Rockefeller and Morgan did nothing better than that. . . .

More than all he did and taught, was the man himself. It was said of Chatham that there was something finer in the man than anything he ever said. The same has been said of Washington and Lincoln. In God’s sight goodness is greatness. . . . Our friend was a man who drank in the spirit of Christ. He lived to make the world better and brighter. . . . Our age and country need such men—good men, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. They are needed in the church, in business, in politics, everywhere. . . .

Professor McDiarmid died in the fullness of his mental powers, and in the midst of his usefulness. . . . He was never happier than when the fever seized him. When his strength was exhausted he fell on sleep. We believe and are sure that to him was granted an abundant entrance into the eternal kingdom. . . .

_ _ _

—Jim Nieman, managing editor, Christian Standard

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