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The Cottars of the Glen
Chapter XI


Barbara's death—Her sayings—Character of Barbara—Condolence—Graves of the martyrs.

We come to a death scene of a very different description, namely, the decease of Barbara, the worthy spouse of the patriarch of the glen. Her health had been failing for some time, and her ailments were gradually increasing. At last she was permanently confined to bed. Her condition filled Saunders with solicitude, he dreaded the worst, but committed all to the Lord, in whose keeping are our lives and safety. The Christian graces in Barbara never shone so conspicuously as on her deathbed. Her gracious experience was of the most edifying description, and many who came to see her went away with the conviction that the grace of God was in her of a truth, that the religion which she professed was a thing of verity, which in her case bore her up under her complicated affliction, and inspired her with the hope of eternal life.

Some of her sayings on her death-bed have been preserved, and had been written down, at the time she uttered them, on the blank leaf of a book which fortunately we have in our possession, and which has stood for many years on our shelves. One day when a friend was conversing with her on Divine things she uttered, with great emphasis, the following words of Job, "I know that my Redeemer liveth." These words she appropriated to her own case. The Redeemer of the patriarch was her Redeemer, her entire confidence was placed in Him, and the peace which she felt in her heart like a flowing stream issued forth from Him, the great fountain of infinite blessedness. At another time she said, "When I think on the death of Christ for sinners and for me, it tak's an unco effec on me." This was the result of true faith in looking at the relation which the death of Christ bears to us; for if we do not see that the blood of Christ, the great Redeemer, was shed for us, even for our avail personally and individually, no effect will be produced on us, and we will still remain indifferent and cold hearted, and as far from the kingdom of God as ever. Alas, how many look on these things with a cold indifference—a cold, contemplative gaze—and feel no melting of heart, and no attraction of soul to Him who shed His precious blood for the world's redemption.

The death of Christ, as an atonement for sin, was the ground of poor Barbara's hope for eternal life, and an atonement of avail to plead with God, the God of uncompromising holiness and justice as the ground on which he can honourably and justly save any sinner of the human race, and to save her, a poor creature, whose salvation was wholly dependent on His free grace. One day as she was lying quietly and ruminating on Divine things, and dwelling, as it would appear, on the words, "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them," she said, quietly but firmly, "I think I am reconciled to God."

She felt that God in Christ was her friend; that He was propitiated, judicially satisfied for human sin through the great sacrifice of His own Son; and therefore she felt perfect confidence in Him as her God and Father: she rested in Him with complacency. At another time, when thinking on the great plan of redemption, she exclaimed, "He hath satisfied justice, He hath magnified the law"—plainly intimating that she understood the ground of a sinner's acceptance with God. She was a virtuous woman, but she placed no trust in her own righteousness; her rejoicing was in Christ Jesus, and she had no confidence in the flesh. Unlike many who, ignoring the merits of the Saviour, go about to establish their own righteousness, not submitting themselves to the righteousness of God. On another occasion she was heard repeating the following lines of the psalm—

"My soul, wait thou with patience
Upon thy God; alone
On Him dependeth all my hope
And expectation;"

and then again uttering, with deep emphasis, this verse of another psalm—

"I wait for God, my soul doth wait,
My hope is in his word.
More than they that for morning watch,
My soul waits for the Lord."

It is much to be regretted that more of her utterances were not retained; but these are all that are to be found on the blank leaf of the book, as taken down at the time.

It was remarked, by the pious people that visited her in her last illness, that she spoke from her sick-bed more like an angel than a human being. Her heart was brimful of spirituality, and her communion was almost uninterrupted. She had a remarkably sweet voice; and often in the night season she was exercised in singing the high praises of God. A redeemed soul delights in such an exercise; it is a foretaste of the heavenly anthems which are sung in the heavenly places. For many weeks she lingered on in her weakness till her body was brought very low; but her spirits were not in the least abated. Her mind was clear and vigorous; and as days and nights passed on, her faith grew stronger. At length the last struggle came, and she died in triumph, rejoicing in hope of the glory of God.

The edifying death of Barbara Gray produced a salutary effect in the glen. The careless people who were in the habit of holding up religious persons to ridicule were awe-struck, and Barbara's Christian-like departure, combined with the suicide of the strange man, silenced scoffers for a time, and led not a few to serious reflection.

The worthy patriarch had now sustained a heavy loss. Barbara was a crown to her husband; and though many daughters had done virtuously, she excelled them all. Saunders, however, was supported in his bereavement by the self-same grace that upheld his saintly spouse in her last trial, and he deported himself as a Christian man should, and bowed in acquiescence to the will of the Lord. He did not want his comforters, for many religious men of his acquaintance consorted with him, and spoke words of sweet consolation in his ears, while the Spirit of the Lord spoke peace to his heart.

The next care was the funeral. The burying-place of the ancestors of Saunders and of Barbara was, as has been already mentioned in speaking of the funeral of Janet, the lonely churchyard of Kirkbride—lonely now, but not lonely then, with its little Kirkton, and a variety of cottages clustering around and on the sunny braes beneath. It is a sweet resting-place, and many generations of forgotten dead sleep around the little church which had had its station there for hundreds of years, though now in ruins. It was to this place, around which old stories and strange traditions cluster, that Saunders conveyed the remains of his dear wife, and there to rest side by side with those of his beloved daughter Janet.

The glen lost a person of no inferior worth and esteem when it lost Barbara. She was, indeed, a mother in Israel. She was of great use among the young females. Her mind was of a superior order; and though she was a person of no education further than what was common in those times, and of the same kind as that which honest Ledgeo Cooper imparted to the rustic children in his schoolroom. Her good sense, however, was in a great' measure a substitute for this. Her knowledge of Divine truth was the principal thing that distinguished her. She knew the Bible to be true, and the great doctrines which it contained were the food of her soul. Many a time did Saunders and she together pore over the Divine Word, and pray in unison that they might be enabled to comprehend its meaning, and to feel its power on their hearts. Many a little sermon did she preach, in quoting passages of Holy Writ to a neighbour who might happen to step into her house; so that it might be well said of her, "Her lips fed many."

She was remarkable for her peaceable disposition, and many a Ume did she quash the brawls that arose among the neighbours. Her kindly manner soothed their angry spirits, and often converted foes into hearty friends. She was a woman that ruled her own spirit, and consequently had power over those whose tempers otherwise were by no means easily tamed. The amount of harmony which prevailed in the glen was greatly owing to her influence.

Her forgiving temper had occasion to display itself in various instances, one of which we have already noticed in a former chapter, in reference to her paying the rent of the woman who was her enemy, and who, by the kindly deed, became her attached friend, and none lamented her death more than poor Eppie.

Her behaviour was in all respects such as became her profession. She moved quietly through life, and went as gently through death. There were but few in the glen who did not lament her departure; and those who spoke ill of her while she lived, spoke well of her when she died. The memory of the just is blessed; and all wished that their last end might be like hers. But how vain the wish, if the heart be not given to God while living!

Saunders deeply felt the lost, but then he just drew nearer that Saviour who could nil the void and make up for all. He felt lonely in his own house, and sadly mused on the days that had passed away. But he had peace within, and happy fellowship with God in Christ, and he was content.

A niece of his own was now brought to keep house with him, a pious young woman, the very picture of his dear Janet—whose memory lay so near his heart—both in person and in disposition. Her piety was of an elevated stamp, and she became a great comfort to him, and a great favourite in the glen.

As Saunders was a person of much esteem in the district, and well known far beyond the glen, there wanted not a goodly number of pious sympathisers with him in his affliction. Not a few came from distant parts, and from the far-back moorlands, to converse with him whom God had wounded. He had himself comforted many in similar circumstances; and now, when he needed, he was not forsaken-— not forsaken either of God or of man. Intercourse with the godly is always pleasant to the spiritually-minded and the Lord makes use of this intercourse to impart strength to the drooping hearts of His people in the day of trial. Sweet is a brother in adversity, but sweeter still is communion with our Great Brother, who was tried in all points like as we are, and therefore knows how to succour those that are tried.

While many were coming and going in visiting Saunders, there entered his house unexpectedly two old and trusty friends, whose faces he had not seen for sundry years. They were men of a kindred spirit with the patriarch, and men whom he esteemed as the excellent of the earth. They lived at a great distance from the glen, in the upland wilds of Lanarkshire. They were men well advanced in life, but stout and hale; and, what was remarkable, the one was Saunders's spiritual father, and the other was Barbara's. They were not aware of what had befallen their ancient friend in his domestic circle; but having been traversing the moors on an errand of their own, they resolved on visiting the glen to see how it fared with Saunders and his family. No men on earth were more welcome to his cottage than they; and if he had been called to entertain angels, it could not have been with greater cordiality than he received these two saintly men.

"O," said Saunders to John Black and Thomas Mair, the two men who stood before him, "O, what an inexpressible gratification does this unlooked for visit afford me; I almost forget my great bereavement in seeing you under my roof." He then told them what they were not aware of, that Barbara had gone to her rest; that her death-bed was a happy one, and that she fell asleep in Jesus.

"Ah!" exclaimed Thomas Marr, "the Lord was pleased to bless my feeble endeavours to lead that sainted woman, long agone, to the knowledge of the Saviour, and I hoped that on my visit here I might see one who had made no small progress in the divine life. But she is gone—yes, gone to the blessed rest above; and let us follow her: we shall meet in due time."

"Yes," added Saunders; "and you, John Black, so full of zeal and holy ardour, were the blessed means of my conversion, when I was thoughtless and wayward; but from the time, in my boyhood, when I was laid on my bed with a broken limb, caught by speeling the ravine on a sweet Sabbath day, which I by that deed profaned, and when you spoke to me of my sin, and told me of the Saviour whose blood cleanseth from all sin—I say, from that time I have been made to rejoice in the salvation of God. And now you are both here, and I regard you as sent by the Heavenly Comforter to cheer me in my loneliness; and I thank you most cordially for your kindly visit, only I regret that one is absent who would have greeted you with a welcome no less hearty. Sit ye doun, sirs, and the Lord bless you, and may you both be comforted, when your need comes, with the same comfort which your presence has now imparted to me."

The worthy men sojourned with Saunders for several days, and their intercourse was of the most Christian kind.

The thing which on this occasion drew the men from their homes was an impatient desire to visit the graves of the martyrs, in the upland solitudes where they hid, and fell, and were buried. "How came you to find your way hereabouts?" said the good patriarch.

"We have," replied they, "been visiting the land of the martyrs, that holy brotherhood who loved not their lives unto the death, and to glean something both of piety and patriotism from that field."

"Ah," responded Saunders, "those were the men, and those were the times. Our hearts burn within us when we think of the suffering days, and of what befel in what was called 'the killing time.' Many were the thrilling tales which old Barbara Taylor, that gracious matron, who dwelt in Upper Spouth, on the breast of the hill above us there, used to tell us. She lived on the very borders of those dismal times, when the enemy and the destroyer sought to wear out the saints of the Most High: but Barbara has long since gone to her rest, and many precious traditions are buried with her. You see, we have in our neighbourhood some of the graves of the martyrs, and sometimes I used to visit them in company with those who took an interest in these matters. It does one good to sit on their green graves, and think of all that they endured for our advantage. I well remember that on a sweet summer's day, when the sun was high in the firmament, that I stretched myself on the grass and leaned my head on a grave for my pillow, and I fell sound asleep. I thought I heard the most enchanting music in the air right above me, and these words fell on my ears—(These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple.'"

"I wish I had such a dream," said Thomas Marr, "I wish I had such a dream, for then I would think that my spirit was communing with the martyr band, who now triumph with Christ, their glorious Head. But what places have you around you here that you can point out as the sleeping-places of these witnesses?"

"We have", replied Saunders, "immediately around us here a goodly number of graves of the martyrs that were shot in those woful times, and especially by Douglas of Drumlanrig. There is Chapman's Cleuch, just on the height before you, and Brown's Cleuch, and Morris' Cleuch, where fell these three men by name, and where they are buried. But beside these, there are two graves plainly to be seen on the green slope before the Conraik farm-house, and another, on the same farm, on the bank of a brook that descends from the hill. We cherish their memory, and often visit their resting-places. All these are within the ancient parish of Say-na- Whair. But what places have you visited in your journeyings?"

"We have," said the men, "more especially visited the martyrs of Crossgellioch, and the grave of the sweet Marion Cameron, the sister of Richard. We have been at Ayr's Moss, where the nine covenanters fell by the hand of Bruce of Earlshall; where Cameron's sword and his Bible are seen engraven on the through-stone in the lonely heath. We read the inscription— Halt! carious passenger; come here and read Our souls' triumph with Christ oar glorious Head. In self-defence we murdered here do lie, To witness 'gainst this nation's perjury.'

"We next travelled to the cottage of the lone Priesthill and surveyed the grave of John Brown, the godly carrier, who was shot by Claverhouse at the end of his own house, on the first morning of summer in the '85, the black year, as it was called. In this I felt a more than common interest, as I am a descendant of that house by the mother's side; and we think that little Janet, who stood by her mother when John Brown was shot was our great grandmother—at least so says the tradition in the family of the Marrs. On leaving Priesthill, we came across the moors to visit you, our dear old friend."

"And you are welcome, most welcome, as I said before, and I think the Lord has sent you to wean my thoughts from over-much brooding on the decease of my dear wife. But why should we grieve? She is in the blessed rest; and let us follow."


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