Charles Mackintosh, like other early brethren, formed the habit of using initials, probably for self-deprecating reasons. Thus the initials C H M became well known in evangelical circles of the late Victorian era through the wide circulation of his substantial literary output. Mackintosh was not a theologian like J N Darby or William Kelly, but he was a good expositor of Scripture, capable of writing in a lucid style easily read and understood by a wide readership. Successive generations of believers have benefited from his rich devotional commentary Notes on the Pentateuch. This, his best known work, has remained continuously in print since the first volume on Genesis appeared in the 1850s. Striking testimony to its value has been given by such well-known men as D L Moody who wrote, I had my attention called to C H M's Notes, and was so much pleased and at the same time profited by the way they opened up Scripture truth, that I secured at once all the writings of the same author. They have been to me a very key to the Scriptures. Harry Ironside later commented on the Notes on the Pentateuch and the six volumes of Miscellaneous Writings: They proved of inestimable value when as a young preacher I was seeking a firm foundation for my faith and a better grasp of Bible truth. Mackintosh was a significant contributor to the rich heritage of Christian literature produced by exclusive brethren during the nineteenth century. His writings were important in the dissemination of dispensational teaching including the expectation of the pre-tribulation rapture of the church.
Mackintosh was born in October, 1820 at Drumgoff Barracks in a rural part of County Wicklow. His father, Captain Duncan Mackintosh of the Highlanders' regiment, was Scottish, and his mother Alicia was of a family long settled in Ireland. He was converted in 1838, through the letters of one of his devout sisters who counselled him to read J N Darby's Operations of the Spirit. He was helped by its teaching that it is Christ's work for us, not His work in us that gives peace. Conversion was a life changing experience for young Mackintosh who began work in Limerick that same year while devoting his spare time to reading Scripture. The following year he came into fellowship with the assembly at Aungier Street, Dublin where he profited from J G Bellett's ministry.
In 1844 Mackintosh and his sister opened a school in Westport, County Mayo, and this continued through the years of extreme hardship and destitution resulting from the Irish Potato Famine. He became increasingly involved in itinerant preaching in the south of Ireland until, in 1853, he closed the school having become convinced that the Lord had called him to give himself entirely to His work. He had married an Irish lady Catherine Emma, a true helpmeet who staunchly supported her husband in the spread of the gospel. They had six sons, two of whom died early. For some years he lived near to Dublin in Clontarf, but in 1857 he moved to Coleraine. He thus witnessed the Revival that began in Ulster in 1859 and soon found opportunity for service in evangelism. He was a gifted preacher and greatly used at that time in the salvation of souls. A notable convert, Dr Alfred H Burton, recalled Mackintosh preaching on Isaiah 6: Every eye was riveted on him as he opened up the subject of the claims of God's throne in its glory, majesty and justice, vindicated and satisfied by the Sacrifice on the Altar. Later C H M wrote to Andrew Miller, I have been thinking a good deal lately of that memorable time, now exactly ten years ago, when the Spirit of God wrought so marvellously in the province of Ulster. That was a time never to be forgotten by those who were privileged to be eyewitnesses of the magnificent wave of blessing which rolled over the land.
Throughout his life Mackintosh remained firmly committed to gospel work. His Miscellaneous Writings include seven Letters to an Evangelist written in a direct and thoroughly refreshing style. The contents are as pertinent now as when written. The importance of personal evangelism as well as public preaching, dependence upon the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, the place the Word of God must have in our preaching, and the vital need for earnest prayer in public and in the closet were all forcefully stressed. He referred to three distinct branches of the work which he longed to see occupying a far more definite and prominent place among us; the tract depot, the gospel preaching, and the Sunday-school, and made valuable comment on each. His closing words are a delight to read: May God pour out His blessing on all Sunday-schools, upon the pupils, the teachers, and the superintendents! May He also bless all who are engaged in any way, in the instruction of the young! May He cheer and refresh their spirits by giving them to reap many golden sheaves in their special corner of the one great and glorious gospel field! Truly the words of a good man with a large heart!
In a letter written towards the end of his life C H M referred to George Cutting as my dear son in the faith. Mr Cutting became a noted evangelist whose name remains familiar as the author of the renowned tract Safety, Certainty and Enjoyment. This tract has been a source of blessing to many and may be regarded as fruit continuing from Mackintosh's labours as an evangelist.
Another aspect of service in which C H M engaged was in editing Things New and Old, a magazine which he and Andrew Miller launched in 1858. They shared responsibility as editors until 1878 and established its reputation for sound doctrine. A good example comes from an article in 1873. We rejoice in every opportunity for the setting forth of Christ's eternal sonship. We hold it to be an integral and essential part of the Christian faith. This monthly magazine of 24 pages soon had a large and worldwide circulation. Many readers wrote submitting questions or asking advice, and helpful replies were given. In 1859 he began editing Good News for the Young and Old a magazine for children which he continued until 1876. The famous hymn by Albert Midlane There's a friend for little children above the bright blue sky was first published in this magazine.
After many years of residence and service in Ireland, Mackintosh and his family moved to England in 1863. He travelled widely throughout the country preaching the gospel and ministering the Word. His written ministry continued with a steady stream of publications on a variety of subjects. Though he never left the British Isles the influence of his writings spread far and wide.
He was most decided regarding his "church position" and laid great emphasis upon gathering unto the name of the Lord on the ground of the one body. He wrote, I do not believe that the brethren are the church of God; but they are on the ground of the church of God, else I should not be amongst them for one hour. Yet while contending for positional truth, he seemed painfully conscious of weakness among brethren. He wrote, Our spiritual tone, both in private life and in our public reunions, is sorrowfully low. There is a sad lack of depth and power in our assemblies. During the 1870s, as teaching about household baptism became increasingly prevalent, he reiterated his views on baptism in his magazine. I can only say that I have for thirty-two years been asking in vain for a single line of Scripture for baptising any other than believers or those who profess to believe. Reasonings I have had, inferences, conclusions, and deductions; but of direct Scripture authority not one tittle. He felt cause to complain of those, who instead of preaching and teaching Jesus Christ, are disturbing the minds of God's people by pressing infant baptism upon them.
The divisions and doctrinal turbulence among exclusive assemblies in the last fifteen years of his life must have been greatly perplexing to C H M. It is therefore quite remarkable that the subject of his final tract, published shortly before his death in 1896, was The God of Peace. It was most fitting, as his first published in 1843 had been Peace with God. The final years of his life were spent in Cheltenham. His wife died in 1894 and Mackintosh entered to his rest on 2nd November, 1896. Hearing of that J B Stoney remarked. He is now where love is satisfied.
It had been a life of faithful service and it is appropriate to quote a comment made years later by C A Coates. I was one of the last persons to hear C H M pray. It was most touching to hear the aged and feeble Levite pouring out his heart to God, first for the whole assembly, and then for the little companies gathered everywhere to the Lord's name. The Lord's interests were the great burden of his heart. Though he had been for a length of time incapacitated for any public service he was still keeping the charge.¹
Note: Much information was gleaned from The Life and Times of Charles Henry Mackintosh by Edwin Cross published by Chapter Two.
¹ An Outline of Numbers by C A Coates p. 111