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The Cottars of the Glen
Chapter XIII


Storms—Thunder—Bain—Snows—Deluges—Dangerous travelling— Crawland—Saunders and his associates—James Barns, the smith —Peter, the wearer—Andrew, the tailor—Henry, the cobbler.

In the days of the people of the glen about whom we are writing, storms unknown to us were frequent. The great alteration that has taken place in this respect has been attributed to various causes, the chief of which is supposed to be the extensive draining of the hills and moorlands throughout the country, for the purpose of carrying off the superfluous moisture, and thus producing a dryness and clearness in the air unknown to former times. But however this may be, the thing is certain that the storms of other days were much more heavy and continuous than at present. The locality around the glen, studded with lofty mountains, was often visited by severe weather. In the dead of winter the snow-storms were sometimes terrific, covering the whole district with a sheet of the purest whiteness several feet in depth. The flocks and herds were in some cases nearly exterminated, and many of the moorland farmers were ruined. What falls in rain, now-a-days, fell then, for the most part, in snow; and then on the freshening, some months after, the melting of the snow and the rain from the clouds flooded the plains to an unwonted depth; the bums and streamlets, rushing with impetuosity to the lower parts, tore the soil and gravel from the steep sides of the hills, and covered all in confusion on the level ground beneath. Hence the deep ruts and scars on the face of the precipitous heights everywhere around.

But if the snow-storms were severe, the thunder-spates were equally so. In the high days of summer, when the electrified clouds gathered around there summits of the higher eminences, and increasing gradually into one dense mass, threatening to pour their ominous contents in one vengeful discharge on all beneath their scowling aspect, the breasts of all were filled with alarm. The gush of waters from the firmament falling on the heights with impetuous descent, covered the sides of the hills with foam. The roar of the thunder among the mountains was terrific, the peals reverberating from hill to hill resembled the loud cannonading on the field of battle, and the scathing bolts smote rocks, and trees, and houses, and left their deep scars on moor, and hill, and scraggy steep. So frightful were these storms in the upland wastes in those times, as to impart names to certain localities which remain till this day. Duntercleuch, a little to the east of the glen, is an instance of this: the name signifies the thunder clench. An aged shepherd once told the writer of this, that on one summer in his remembrance he heard, during five weeks in succession, thunder every day among the hills. This is the more remarkable, as now the loud voice of thunder, in the same district, will not be uttered more than two or three times in a whole year on an average. So much for the improved condition of the climate.

But if the glen, in common with the locality around, was visited by storms of thunder, and snow, and heavy deluges of rain, there was what was peculiar to itself— namely, certain dangers incident to travellers along its sweet vale. The danger lay chiefly in traversing the glen in the dark. There was no road along its stream —which winded from side to side in its course—so that the traveller had to cross it seven or eight times in his way. The current, after rain, was strong, and the channel rough, with rolling boulders. No bridges bestrode the stream, and peril to man and horses was great; and the people of the glen, no doubt, had their own thrilling tales to tell of mishap in the turbulent torrent.

The valley of the Crawick was famous for its woods in former times. The old people used to tell that the trees which, in their youthful days, filled the glen—trees of oak, and ash, and elm, and other kinds of natural growth, never planted by the hands of men—were so densely crowded that, standing on an eminence that overlooked the glen, it appeared, to the eye of the spectator, as if a person could walk on the tops of these trees as on solid ground. And the closely-set underwood rendered the far-in-recesses of the forest dark even at noon-day; and then the legends connected with the place imparted a terror which few had courage to face.

Among the feathered tribes, whose habitat was this woodland, the crows were by far the most numerous. The rookery was immense, and had existed for ages; and it is from this circumstance that the valley gets the name of Craw-Wick—wick signifying the bend of a river, and then the house or village built on the bend, hence a place of resort. Now, it is remarkable that it was on the lower bend of the stream, where it takes so magnificent a sweep before it leaves the glen, that this forest chiefly existed, and where the crows had their long residence. But the magnificent wood, which clothed both sides of the valley, reaching far up on the breasts of the heights, is now all swept away. The stately and umbrageous trees were all hewn down about eighty years ago, at the will of the proprietor, and sold to the highest bidder—a barbarous deed, denuding a lovely valley of its chief ornament. Only the mountains stand, and stand simply because they bid defiance to the woodman's axe. Growland is no more, and the rooks have fled to other settlements.

Before concluding, we must bring good Saundere and some of his associates on the carpet once more. Our patriarch was still maintaining his position as a Christian man, and his influence for good was daily extending. The people of the glen had now learned to value his worth more clearly than ever, and he was unconsciously installed as the oracle in their midst. His maturity in years and in grace had mellowed his character more and more. The kindliness of his disposition, the heavenliness of his temper, and his general usefulness were now become so conspicious that all were disposed to regard him as their father, counsellor, and guide. His occupation as a wright brought many to his workship, which afforded him the opportunity of conversing with them on the topics which concerned their best interests.

There were several persons in the glen over whom, in a very particular way, he had acquired an influence. The first of these was James Burns, the smith. James was a smith of the primitive fashion. He toiled on in his little smiddy, and with his hand on the bellows, his leathren apron before him, a red night-cap on his head, the perspiration dripping from his brow, he spoke, and argued, and threepit, and demonstrated, in the midst of the little circle that convened in his smutty workshop, and that with such vehemence, that—the foam spurting from his mouth, and the red-hot sparks showering from his anvil, while the ponderous hammer was brought down with terrific energy, blow after blow, on the glowing iron —he overawed his auditors, and shaped them into his way of thinking, just as he forged the bar of iron with his lusty strokes, as it lay on the study or stithy before him. James, though a professed Christian, had little or nothing of the Christian about him. He swore occasionally, lay in bed all Sabbath, drank to excess when opportunity offered, and was in the habit of calling religious persons hypocrites, pretended saints, and such like; for James could never see that there was anything real in religion. His manner was rude, bluff, and uncourteous. He delighted in terrifying little children who happened to gather about his smithy, and sent them away screaming from the door, when he presented a rod of red-hot iron, which he threatened to thrust unceremoniously down their throats. A discreet answer could hardly ever be extorted from his lips; and yet James was a person whom the people of the glen could scarcely want, for he was a dexterous workman, and never failed to execute his job to the full satisfaction of his employers. He was of a stout make, and possessed a brawny arm, not only for hammering the red hot iron, but especially for the management of refractory horses in the article of shoeing.

Saunders had many thoughts about James, and many words with him, too, for they often came in contact in the way of their respective trades. James, whose mind, notwithstanding his moral degradation, was of a superior order, uniformly respected Saunders, and never spoke of him as he was wont to do of others. The patriarch's good sense, and especially his integrity, often overawed James; and he thought, in his inmost heart, that there might be something real in religion after all. On every fitting opportunity Saunders endeavoured to speak down into the smith's conscience, and to lay before him the great verities of the gospel. Nor were his efforts in vain. The smith began to relax. He perceived his folly, and he felt that if there were a soul within him, that soul was in the greatest hazard. His usually boisterous manner left him; he became thoughtful and silent, and left off his former habits. The change was noticed by all; and one day he came to Saunders, and, with a grave countenance and the tear in his eye, he said, with great emphasis—"Oh, Saunders! what shall I do—what must I do to be saved?" Saunders was greatly delighted to hear such questions put, and proceeded to lay before him, in the simplest manner, the way of a sinner's acceptance with God. James listened with surprise; his eyes were opened to see the truth, and the Divine Spirit guided his mind to the faith of that Saviour whose blood cleanseth from all sin. The smith became a new man. The people wondered; but the fact could not be denied, that the rough, swearing, bullying, Sabbath-breaking smith had become an altered man. Many rejoiced, and none more than Saunders. Here was now a brother in the Lord, a brand plucked from the fire, a living monument of what Divine grace can accomplish; and the honest wright found in the smith a fellow-pilgrim.

But there were other parties the good Saunders had to deal with, and whose erroneous sentiments he laboured to correct. Peter, the weaver, whose services were indispensable in the glen, where so much wearing apparel both of men and of women was required, comes next before us. Peter was a Pharisee; he was most rigidly laced in his own self-righteousness. He cultivated a reputable character, he attended to the precise discharge of religious duties, kept strictly the fourth commandment, was always found in his pew in the church, dealt most honestly in all his transactions, was kindly among his neighbours, and charitable to the poor, while he uniformly paid his just debts, and would rather have half starved himself than be owing any one a single penny. And now, thought Peter, fully satisfied with himself, what more is required to attain eternal life? Thus lived the weaver, and his conscience seldom troubled him, and seldom had he any misgivings respecting the safety of his condition.

In this manner he passed year after year, hugging himself in false security, till one Sabbath afternoon, when returning in company with Saunders, after having heard a sermon on the great doctrine of salvation by free grace, without the deeds of the law, he ventured to express his opinion on the subject of the discourse.

"I am not at all satisfied," said he to honest Saunders —"I am not pleased with what we have heard to-day; that sort of preaching does away with all morality together, and I do not see how a man can enter heaven without the keeping of the law."

"If by the keeping of the law," responded Saunders, "you mean a holy and spiritual life, then you are perfectly right; but if you mean a man's own righteousness as the foundation of his acceptance with God, you are entirely wrong, for the blessed Scriptures say,  By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight;' therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Depend upon it, Peter, that if you trust to your own decent character, and your religious observances, you are leaning on a broken reed. If our own righteousness, such as it is, could save us, why did God send His Son to redeem us?" "Aye," but said Peter, "he came not to save the righteous, but sinners.' Now, righteous persons — by which I mean individuals like myself, who have always maintained a blameless reputation—do not need a Saviour. I fully admit that such men as James Burns need a Saviour, because they have nothing to show but a wicked life."

"And you," replied Saunders, u are among those who do not require a Saviour? But, Peter, remember this, that unless you can claim an exemption from all sin absolutely in thought, word, and deed; unless you can prove to your own conscience, or by your own consciousness, that you never once committed a single fault, either against God or your neighbour; in short, unless you can show that you are perfectly innocent, nay more, unless you have been absolutely holy from the first dawning of reason till the present moment, you cannot be saved on the ground of your own merits; for, hear the word of the Lord, ' Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.' Now, can you lay your hand on your heart this moment and honestly declare, as in the sight of God that searcheth the heart, and who knows all our history unerringly, and who is at last to be our judge, that you have, in all respects, during your whole lifetime, in heart, and word, and conduct, been exactly and precisely just such a man as the. law of God requires, and that you have come up to the full measure of its demands?"

Peter was staggered by the pointed way in which Saunders had put the case, and more especially when he added, " Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth."

The subject of conversation deeply impressed Peter, and the matter began to appear to him in a new light.

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man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law;1 the deeds of the law, therefore, are not required, for in this respect we are set free—the law has no power over us."

"Our obedience," replied Saunders, "I fully admit, is not the ground of our justification before God, that being the righteousness of Christ alone; still, this does not release us from obedience. 'Do we make void the law through faith?' says the apostle. ' God forbid: yea, we establish the law.' Paul and you seem to differ on this point, for everywhere in his writings, he, in common with the other apostles of the Lord, strongly inculcates a holy life as obligatory on all believers, and shows that no man can lay claim to the Christian name who is not a holy person. He expressly asserts 'that God has chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy, and without blame before him in love.' What language can be stronger than this? And in another place it is affirmed, l that without holiness no man shall see the Lord.' No man can enter heaven without personal sanctity, any more than without imputed righteousness. And I would just say to you, Andrew, that holding the sentiments you do, you are chargeable with turning the grace of God into licentiousness; and that is a serious matter. And I must further honestly say, that you are a self-deceiver, and that Satan has darkened your eyes, and is leading you blindfold to perdition. You talk of simple faith being all; but faith works by love, purifies the heart, and overcomes the world; but such is not your faith. Men of your principles dishonour the Christian name, and bring a scandal on the profession of the faith. It is because you love sin and its unhallowed indulgences that you avail yourself of the creed to which you profess to adhere. But be assured that so long as you maintain these principles, and follow the practices to which they tend, that you have neither part nor lot in the great salvation. It is now high time to awake out of your delusion, for be assured you shall be awakened out of it, but awakened, it may be, when it is too late.' Andrew hung his head, and slunk away without a reply.

But Saunders had to deal with another character, yet one very different from the preceding. There lived in the glen a man of the name of Henry Wills, by trade a cobbler. This Henry was a decidedly Christian man, and of a remarkably lowly disposition. Diffident and unassuming, he was much troubled by depressing thoughts about his spiritual condition. He loved the Saviour, and confided in Him; but he could never come to a settled persuasion of the safety of his state before God. He frequently conversed with Saunders on the subject, who ascertained the particular hindrance which lay in the good man's way.

"I see now," said Saunders, one day when they happened to meet, "I now see your difficulty, Henry. The main stumbling-block in the way of your coming to a comfortable persuasion of your safe state is this—you imagine, because you are not so holy as you wish to be, or as you suppose all believers really are, that it would therefore be presumption in you to conclude, with any degree of certainty, that you are in a state of salvation."

"That is precisely my difficulty," said Henry, "and it has been my exercise night and day for years past, and it has greatly crushed my spirits and hindered my rejoicing in the Lord; for, you will observe, I cannot well see how a man that feels sin in him as I do, and who perceives so many shortcomings in conduct, can be authorised, without self-deception, to draw the conclusion that he is really in Christ. My fear, on this account, is, that I am not really a believer nor a new creature, and hence I often feel great despondency."

"I am sorry," replied Saunders, "that you so much misapprehend the matter. If it were true that all believers were from the first moment of their faith in Christ made perfectly holy, and that no remains of sin were to be found in them any more, then might you, with painful certainty, conclude that you are not yet in a state of grace; but since the very reverse is the case, since the work of sanctification is not yet completed in any character while on earth, you greatly wrong yourself when you call in question your safe state, simply because sin is not wholly expelled from your heart. If we are to wait for perfection before we can reach the persuasion that we are Christ's, then it is not likely that we shall ever come to anything like assurance, so long as we are in this world/ But, blessed be God, a believer can triumph over all this, and though he may be forced to complain, with Paul,  O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver from the body of this death?' he can, with the same breath, exclaim, 'Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!'"

"I now see," said the modest man, "I now see that I have been misapprehending the matter."

"Yes," added Saunders; "and I would just say, let no sense of your sinfulness defeat your confidence that you really belong to Christ so long as you are honestly fighting against sin, and earnestly desirous of attaining that holiness without which no man shall see the Lord. Keep close to Christ in faith and fellowship, and you will speedily get rid of this objection. 'The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh, so that you cannot do the things that you would.' "

Thus Saunders dealt with honest Henry, and helped to disabuse his mind of certain misconceptions which tended much to mar his Christian confidence.


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