John Ebenezer Esslemont, who passed away at Haifa November 22, 1925, was born on May 19, 1874, the son of John E. Esslemont of Fairford, Cults, Aberdeenshire.
Returning to Scotland in December, 1899, Esslemont took up the position of assistant to Professor Cash at Aberdeen University, which position he held until 1901, when he went to Australia, remaining there two years. During this residence in Australia, he married on December 19, 1902.
Such is a brief account of the material side of Esslemont’s life; it remains now to say something of the spiritual side, which continues and will continue for evermore.
His progress in the study of the Sacred Books was therefore rapid, for already in 1915 he was writing to the lady above-mentioned recommending what books she should read ; and in February, 1916, little more than a twelve-month after he himself first received the Glad Tidings, he wrote at length to a friend in Manchester in terms which show how thoroughly he had accepted the and how profoundly he had already studied them. Thus he writes:
This extract from one of Esslemont’s early letters shows so clearly the spirit which illumined all his words and actions, that its insertion here will be forgiven by those who read his stirring admonition and appeal. That he himself did in very truth turn to God as revealed by Baha’u’llah, and that having so turned, he never deviated by one breadth from the path of love and righteousness is a fact known to those who had the privilege of meeting him and listening to his glowing talks as well as to those who are acquainted with him only through his writings inspired as they are with that same loving spirit which was apparent to those who knew him personally.
The third chapter relating to Baha’u’llah was first published as a separate pamphlet, and it was proposed to issue a new edition on the occasion of the Conference on some living religions within the British Empire which was held in London in the autumn of 1924; on consideration, however, it appeared that a more general pamphlet would be both more appropriate and more useful, thus “Baha’u’llah and His Message” came to be written by Esslemont, who also wrote the small leaflet, “What Is the Baha’i Movement?’
It was not only by his printed works that Esslemont became known to the Baha’i world, for he was an indefatigable and voluminous corresespondent not only in English, but also in Esperanto, of which universal language he was a complete master. Amongst his last labors during his stay at Haifa in 1925 was the revision of the Esperanto translation of the above-mentioned leaflet which had been prepared for meeting of the Universal Esperanto Congress at Geneva in August of that year. Another work on which he was also engaged towards the close of his earthly career was the translation into German of his large book.
These evidences of Esslemont’s labors in the service of the Cause remain open to all, but of the loving services which he so gladly and selflessly rendered to all with whom he came into personal contact, only they can give full account from the inmost recesses of their hearts; but surely all whom he helped will forever bear in mind the inestimable benefits conferred upon them by his words, and more, perhaps, by his living example of what a true Baha’i should be, for he was nigh unsurpassed in selflessness, in utter devotion and obedience to the teachings, in love and trustfulness to all his fellows.
No better appreciation of Dr. Esslemont and of services to the Cause can be given than that contained in the following letter which the Guardian of the Cause wrote after the passing of him who loved the Cause so well and served it so faithfully:
“It is with of feelings overwhelming sorrow that I communicate to you the news of yet another loss which the Almighty, in His inscrutable wisdom, has chosen to inflict upon our beloved Cause. On the 22nd of November, 1925 - that memorable and sacred day in which the Baha’is of the Orient celebrated the twin Festivals of the Declaration of the Bab and the Birthday of ‘Abdu’l-Baha --John E. Esslemont passed on to the Abha Kingdom. His end was as swift as it was unexpected. Suffering from the effects of a chronic and insidious disease, he fell at last a victim to the inevitable complications that ensued, the fatal course of which neither the efforts of vigilant physicians nor the devoted cares of his many friends could possibly deflect.
“He bore his sufferings with admirable fortitude, with calm resignation and courage. Though convinced that his ailments would never hence-forth forsake him, yet many a time he revealed a burning desire that the friends residing in the Holy Land should, while visiting the Shrines, implore the All-Merciful to prolong his days that he may bring to a fuller completion his humble share of service to the Threshold of Baha’u’llah. To this noble request all hearts warmly responded. But this was not to be. His close association with my work in Haifa, in which I had placed fondest hopes, was suddenly cut short. His book, however, an abiding monument to his pure intention will, alone, inspire generations yet unborn to tread the path of truth and service as steadfastly and as unostentatiously as was trodden by its beloved author. The Cause he loved so well he served even unto his last day with exemplary faith and unstinted devotion. His tenacity of faith, his high integrity, his effacement, his industry and pains-taking labors were traits of a character the noble qualities of which will live and live forever after him. To me personally he was the warmest of friends, a trusted counsellor, an indefatigable collaborator, lovable companion.
“With tearful eyes I supplicate at the Threshold of Baha’u’llah – and request you all to join --in my ardent prayers, for the fuller unfolding in the realms beyond of a soul that has already achieved so high a spiritual standing in this world. For by the beauty of his character, by his knowledge of the Cause, by the conspicuous achievements of his book, he has immortalized his name, and by sheer merit deserved to rank as one of the Hands of the Cause of God.