Toronto Evening Telegram, Dec. 24, 1946
A wee old body, not wearing mink, but nice as King Lemuel’s mother, toiled up the church steps as the organ mourned Abide With Me. A stranger opened the storm door for her, and the inner door.
“Thank ye, sirr” said she, as she got her breath. “Himself inside there – he’d do as much for you at the doors of Heaven.
Rev. John Gibson Inkster, D.D., lay very still before the pulpit he had so often left to approach the communion table or the christening font. Both now thanked him, covered with Gideon Bibles presented by admirers.
He was Dr. Inkster to ten thousand church members. He was “Jock Inkster” to ten thousand publicans and sinners. He was “John” to a thousand close friends. By whatever name each knew him, all were represented at the graveside as the sun went down on the shortest day of the year.
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A man’s funeral is not the measure of his life but may shed light upon it. John Inkster’s life was illuminated by his. Matthew and Lazarus, Dives and Publius and Simon, and Lemuel’s mother, and all the Marys were there. There were enough ex-mayors to form a quorum of the city council. In life, he called them by their first names – Tommy Church, Alf Maguire, Jimmy Somers, the city clerk, Fred Conboy, Bill Robbins, and so on. Robert H. Saunders, mayor and mayor-to-be-“Bob” to him – was there too, and Canon Cody, classmate at Varsity, and more than one clergyman who didn’t wear the Geneva gown of the Toronto Presbytery. The humble and the great were proud to be pallbearers. Rev. John McNichol of the Bible College, put the proper emphasis in the funeral address, on Dr. Inkster’s “humanity.” It was poignantly supported as the pallbearers, honorary and active, trod the last slow march. A businessman in his sixties, who got his christening Bible in Knox Church when it was on the Simpson site, broke down and cried, his hot tears making little punctures in the December snow.
“I’ve seen Dr. Parsons go” he sobbed, referring to the minister when the church was on Queen Street. “And I’ve seen Dr. Winchester go from this church, but oh, I can’t bear to see dear John Go out this way, never to come back to us.!”
That was the pathos of it, to the mother of King Lemuel and merchant price and pundit alike, “Never to come back to us!” It was the wail of the pibroch.
Lochaber no more, Lochaber no more,
Never to return to Lochaber no more.
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Becoming minister emeritus, to watch a long succession of “supplies,” had no effect on the zeal of John Inkster to the house of God. Every Sunday he trudged-painfully of late because of his infirmity, but always cheerfully-to his place in the pew, a lowly place he ennobled after long occupancy of the pulpit. A week ago Sunday, at the morning exercise of worship, he performed his last service for Knox, pronouncing on the tactful suggestion of Dr. Laird, acting minister, the benediction-“. . .lift up the light of His countenance upon thee . . . and give thee Peace.”
He was struck down so soon afterwards—and still about his Father’s business—by a motor on the devil-strip, which did not avoid him for the blinding headlights of approaching traffic. Is Christian martyrdom required to end the headlight evil in a well-lighted city?
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That last benediction so tender and so powerful, was significant of the two great poles of power in John Inkster’s ministry—visiting and prayer. “A home visiting minister has no empty kirk,” is an old Presbyterian proverb and John Inkster knew the inside of every home in his ministry.
He preached well. If you made bold to tell him so he might say, with a twinkle in his eye, “So the Devil told me as I came down the pulpit steps, but I am glad to hear it from you.” He was what the godly call sound, but not a controversialist. Like his Master, he bore the reproach of keeping bad company. He refused to have his conscience muzzled even by the holiest of the –ists and –isms. He was good to the old. And the poor.
He never burned a Sunday dinner by holding forth on “seventeenthly brethren.” His frank, “Men and women, I don’t know,” disarmed the tithers of mint and anise and cummin and went straight to the heart of the humble, for he always added, “God’s word says thus and so and I believe Him.” His greatest preaching was in prayer, both the few words of supplication by the bedside after neighborly gossip and funny stories, or the solemn “fencing of the table” at the sacrament of communion. Generations of Presbyterians are the living proof that the effectual fervent prayer of this righteous man availed much. As one business man said, with his last benediction ringing in his heart, “You couldn’t escape the conclusion that this man had the ear of God.” And then there was the tribute of the old body at the door.
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Yet he would tell this story on himself:
Nigh sixty years ago, new-hatched in divinity, he labored as “supply” among the gnarled saints of the Scotch Block. At Dunk’s’ Bay a stern old sailor-fisherman laid on a sick bed, listened grimly while the young BD did his college best to smooth the path to repentance by prayer. At the end Davie growled: “Janet! Janet wumman! Send for the auld meebuster. The callant means weel, but he canna pray warth a dom!”
“Dinna fash yersel, Davie,” returned the young Canadian in the argot of Orkney. “Rax me yon Bible and Ise read till ye."
Noo I unnderstaum ye,” rumbled Davie, “aiblins the Lorrd wull too, gin ye sppak till Him plain like.”
--ONE HE CALLED “CHARLIE.”