SIR ROBERT ANDERSON, K.C.B., LL.D., though of Scottish descent, was born in Dublin on May 29, 1841. His father, Matthew Anderson, was Crown Solicitor in the Irish Capital, and was descended from one of the "No Surrender" group of Derry defenders.
On leaving school he was given a good opening for a business career in a large brewery; but after eighteen months he turned away from this, and entered Trinity College, Dublin, where he graduated B.A. in 1862 with Moderatorship and medal, receiving the LL.D, of his Alma Mater in 1875.
After studying at Boulogne and Paris he entered Trinity College, Dublin, and in due course was called to the Irish Bar. In 1865 he assisted the Irish Government in treason charges. His special knowledge of the ways of conspirators led to his appointment as Irish Agent at the Home Office, and to his becoming Chief of the Criminal Investigation Department, Scotland Yard, at a time when London was in the midst of the "Jack-the-Ripper" scare. He directed this work till 1901, when he was made K.C.B. on his retiral. The colleague or friend of Lord Guthrie, Lord Salisbury, Lord Wolseley, Lord Blythswood, Sir Wm. Harcourt, Rt. Hon. W. E. Gladstone, and many celebrities of days gone by. His story told in "The Lighter Side of My Official Life," touching incidentally on most of his work during his thirty-five years of public service, forms interesting reading.
W. H. Smith, on the floor of the House of Commons, stated that Sir Robert "had discharged his duties with great ability and perfect faithfulness to the public." Raymond Blathwayt, in Great Thoughts, wrote: "Sir Robert Anderson is one of the men to whom the country, without knowing it, owes a great debt. "
As an author his name will go down to generations yet unborn. His general books: "Criminals and Crime," "Sidelights on the Home Rule Movement," and "The Lighter Side of My Official Life," dealing mainly with "things present," may not survive, but his theological volumes, dealing with "things eternal," will remain.
Among his many books, "The Gospel and Its Ministry" is the best known; "Human Destiny," which C. H. Spurgeon describes as "the most valuable contribution on the subject I have seen;" "The Silence of God," the "book which astounded religious Europe" and helped many during the Great War; "The Coming Prince," which deals with the 70 weeks of Daniel; "In Defence," "Daniel in the Critics' Den," "The Hebrew Epistle," "The Honour of His Name," "The Bible and Modern Criticism," "Misunderstood Texts," and other volumes, indicate how prolific his pen and industrious his life. Almost his latest, and certainly his sweetest volume, "The Lord from Heaven," was highly commended by the Bishop of Durham, Dr. Griffith Thomas, Miss Catherine Marsh, and many others.
The two main points in Sir Robert Anderson's books which made then readable and profitable were the strength and certainty of his own beliefs and the clearness of their expression. "Amidst all the weakness and mystifying," said Sir Hugh Gilzean Reid, "it gives one hope to read your strong words." "Your writings are specially helpful to me," wrote a very old friend, Mrs. Pery-Knox-Gore; "there is always in every chapter that which you must either accept or reject. You must stop and think, and not pass on unheeding."
When in Dublin he attended Merrion Hall. For some time in London he assembled with believers in Camberwell and other parts. A few months before his death he explained to the writer that he would have been much more with "brethren" in later years but for the question of ministry. The "open meeting," with its many abuses, did not naturally appeal to such an orderly mind. Yet his heart was ever there. His ministry at the Half-Yearly Meetings in Glasgow was greatly appreciated.
In 1873 he married Lady Agnes Moore, sister of the Earl of Drogheda, a true help-meet in every good work, and a leader in many branches of women's work in London.
Now, what was the secret spring of this mighty man of valour? Here it is as given by himself not long before his Home-call:
He had been brought up in a Christian home, and had led what is known as a religious life, with occasional transient fits of penitence and anxiety; but in 1860 the conversion of one of his sisters through services held in Dublin by J. Denham Smith awakened new spiritual longings. He was persuaded to accompany her to one of these meetings; but the light came the following Sunday evening through a sermon in his own Church. The preacher was the Rev. John Hall (afterwards of New York), who "boldly proclaimed forgiveness of sins, and eternal life as God's gift in grace, unreserved and unconditional, to be received by us as we sat in the pews. His sermon thrilled me," Sir Robert said when describing the event, "and yet I deemed his doctrine to be unscriptural. So I waylaid him as he left the vestry, and on our homeward walk I tackled him about his heresies . . . At last he let go my arm, and, facing me as we stood upon the pavement, he repeated with great solemnity his Gospel message and appeal: 'I tell you,' he said, 'as a minister of Christ, and in His Name, that there is life for you here and now if you will accept Him. Will you accept Christ, or will you reject Him?' After a pause - how prolonged I know not - I exclaimed, 'In God's Name I will accept Christ.' Not another word passed between us; but after another pause he wrung my hand and left me. And I turned homewards with the peace of God filling my heart."
After an attack of influenza, he in measure recovered, sat working till 10.30, retired to rest, and at 11 quietly passed into the presence of the Master whom he loved on November 15th, 1918, in his 77th year.