ROBERT Burns was born on January 25, 1759 into a poor farming family in Alloway near Ayr.
Though he had to work on the fields as a boy in his spare time he was taken up with reading and writing simple verse.
In a book shop he came upon a book of verse by a Scots poet, Robert Ferguson, and this came to him as a revelation that that his local dialect and popular vocabulary could be employed in poetry.
In mid 1786 Burns was entangled in matrimonial uncertainty and he thought of fleeing to Jamaica but the publication of a book of his poems became popular with the ‘chattering classes’ and he moved to Edinburgh. His fame was now assured.
About 20 years after his death a pedlar selling wares in New England used to regale his would-be customers with rhymes by and stories about Burns. In one remote farm the son of the family was entranced by this recital and later when a school teacher, one Joshua Coffin, gave his copy of Burns’ poems the youth, John Greenleaf Whittier, had found his vocation.
Burns and Whittier knew, almost unconsciously, the secret of good communication; speak about issues familiar to common people in their language. Wordsworth, in his time, paid tribute to Burns for that same reason: “He showed my youth how verse may build a princely throne on humble truth.”
Jesus was the supreme communicator and “The common people heard him gladly.” We are not over-powered by big words or religious jargon as we read the Gospels, the wayfarer can understand it and find God meeting the seeker where he or she is!
Another lesson we note here is the power and influence of one life. Would Whittier, whose hymns still enrich our worship services, have found his niche if he had never read the Ayrshire bard?
Saint Paul wrote, “None of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone.”
Every life, no matter how circumscribed its setting, makes an impact upon other, should that be just a few. Abraham Lincoln contended that, “We shall be remembered in spite of ourselves,” The casual remarks, the acts we deem none have observed, are all known by someone and so the imprint is made for good or ill.
Such a consideration should spur us in to holiness of character and language. Tom Allan of Glasgow wrote: “It is for this that we are called as Christians; that some fraction of His image may be seen in us.”
As a youth I often heard soloists sing a piece with this refrain: “Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me, all His wondrous compassion and purity.” That is a prayer all can offer!
The book of Exodus records and it is an enviable tribute to a saint, “When Moses came down from the Mount he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord.” We who follow Christ would value that encromium.