First, we should pray to the God of providence to raise up men like him who have a national rather than a parish or congregational ministry. It seems obvious from church history that is how God usually works. Macdonald was in the same mould as men like Whitefield, Wesley and John Knox. His work was so large that it is almost impossible to assess it. While most of his ministry was confined to the Highlands he also preached further south and also in Ireland. We need men that can move the nation and be used by God to bring many to him.
Second, it is clear providence covers every area of life. We see this in Macdonald’s father being prevented from emigrating, in how Macdonald lived with the aged Christian woman for a few years as a boy, in his schooling, in the way he developed into a great preacher, in his domestic affairs, in his natural strength, in his ability to interact with all kinds of people. The same principle is true of us. We are continually under God’s providence. The knowledge of this should lead us to trust him.
And he has made us who we are and who we can be. Providence works in our lives so that we will influence people. That is a basic fact and we do it every day. Whatever else can be said about each day, it can be said that in one way or another we have been influenced by other people, and in turn we are influencing other people. That is the story of life. The important matter is in what ways are we influencing them.
The third lesson from his life and providence is that we can face adversity. Macdonald knew very sad experiences, especially the deaths of his first wife and of his son in Calcutta. He had other problems as well, some caused by ministers who did not appreciate his desire to preach the gospel. Yet throughout it all he retained his trust in the loving wisdom of God.
Fourth, we see in the Macdonald family how generations of it can serve the Lord. The illiterate catechist did not imagine that his son would become the most prominent evangelist in Scotland or that his grandson would become a pioneer missionary in India. I don’t know what happened afterwards to the family. But we should aim for spiritual legacies that would continue the spread of the gospel.