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The Long Glen
Chapter XXXI - Mr MacPhadrig


THREE ministers of fame—in different ways—were got, after much searching and epistolary correspondence, to come to the burnside communion, to share between them the duties of the day.

He who first enters the tent is Mr Macphadrig, a man now verging on sixty, but looking younger than his years Until the 18th of May, his lines were cast in pleasant places. His manse was comfortable, and his income above the average. As regarded a family of young children his quiver was only too full. But he counted that for gain ; and he would not have been afraid to meet his enemy— only he had none—in the gate, or anywhere else. No worry or care about the payment of bills, or troubles which the future might bring forth, ever disturbed his serenity. He devoted to his spiritual duties all his time and attention, except when he now and then indulged in boyish games and romps with his delighted children. The Disruption altered entirely his worldly circumstances, but he keeps still the even tenor of his ways, and scarcely realises the sacrifice he.has made. The large dark eyes now earnestly gazing into vacancy, now flashing with intense inward light or suffusing with the dew of infinite pity, and the sensitive lip, which quivers with tenderness or stiffens with righteous indignation, betoken a dreamy poetic nature, strong exceedingly in spiritual might, weak exceedingly in worldly affairs.

The wind is tempered for the shorn lamb. This dreamy scholarly minister, who tries humbly to walk with God, and fails to realise that duty in any form can be more than ordinary reasonable service, has a most practical wife, much younger than himself, who always balances accounts on the right side by keeping down expenses. As far as ways and means are concerned, the minister is completely subject to his wife's awful rule and right supremacy. She was given to him—for the marriage came about in quite a romantic way—when he was getting rapidly ruined by indiscriminate charity, stupidity in business matters, and robbery of servants. The young bride was not a month in the manse before she reduced chaos to order and excellent comfort, and ere long, all who intimately knew the minister and his ways, said he had just got the helpmeet for him. So he had; and now in their temporary place of refuge, which is a semi-ruinous thatched farm-house, the minister's wife does not in the least bemoan the loss of former comforts, but is very thankful that she has seven hungry-healthy children, much given to tearing clothes and ill-using boots, and that the little savings of years in the bank will plentifully suffice for porridge and milk, clothes, shoes, and fire, until the Free Church can get properly on her feet, and secure something like a regular stipend for every one of the outed ministers. She studies very intently the Sustentation Fund statistics, and takes care that all the Free Kirk laity in her own district have no excuse for not paying their kirk dues according to their means. One of the wholesomest of women, both morally and physically, is this handsome, brave, and most practical wife of the unpractical minister; and her crown of glory is that she worships her husband as one of God's holy babes, who needs to be carefully tended and defended by an unworthy yet willing and loving helpmeet like herself.

The lesson for the day which Mr Macphadrig selected was the first chapter of the Epistle to the Colossians, and he took the 18th and 19th verses of the same chapter for his text. He used neither full manuscript nor notes. His sermon, although well compacted, seemed to a large extent to be a spontaneous outpouring. After speaking for a short time on Christ's headship over the Universal Church, he turned to what was to him the greater subject, Christ's relations to men individually, as Saviour and reconciler. So the best part of his discourse did not hang strictly to his text, but gushed like a fountain of living water from another verse of the same chapter—"Having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things to Himself."

He spoke as a man who felt permitted, for himself and the whole world, to trust much further in the redeeming consequences of the love manifested by the sacrifice on Mount Calvary, than the Confession of Faith and the popular theology of his Church seemed to allow. In its reprobatory form at least he absolutely ignored the predestination dogma, and he even ventured to throw out a feeble hope, like the tail of a comet thrown athwart the voids of space, that there might finally be a restitution of all things, by which the dualism of good and evil would be reconciled and made intelligible to finite minds.
When he came to touch on the question of the day, his language was equally charitable and comprehensive. The Church of Christ was the Church of all the redeemed ; and they could not say—nor was it fit for them to know—who all the redeemed might be. They could only be sure that responsibility was in proportion to opportunity. They might confidently hope that all, in all ages, who to the best of their light and opportunities sought diligently to serve God and to cultivate a Christ-like spirit, would be found at the Last Day among the redeemed and purified. The little tape lines of Churches on earth could not span infinite spice or measure the infinite love of the All-Father for all His creatures. It was not their business to judge ancient or modern heathens, who might possibly be nearer Christ thin themselves, although they never heard of His name. But it was their duty to judge themselves by the greatness of the opportunities vouchsafed to them; and to pray humbly and earnestly that the Holy Spirit should be their guide and instructor, so that in the end they would not be found unprofitable servants. Scotland in their day was going through an ordeal of sifting and trial. The Church of their fathers had sundered into two halves. They were now divided from those who used to be their friends and brethren in the faith by a gulf which could only be bridged over by true Christian charity. He feared greatly that they who went out were giving themselves too much credit for their poor sacrifice of worldly advantages; and he feared still more they were not giving those who opposed the Non-Intrusion movement throughout fair credit for their honest convictions. Let them not set themselves up as judges of those who did not see eye to eye with them. Let them rather look needfully to their own steps, lest they should walk into the snare of self-conceit, and grievously fall. The Pharisees were highly religious men, who thought they were guarding and advancing God's cause when they persecuted and crucified Christ. Paul, when he set out on his mission to Damascus, was burning with religious zeal. There could be no doubt that in many instances the Papal Inquisitors could say, believing their words to be the truth: —"Lord, Lord, all these things we do for the sake of Thy Church, and in Thy holy name : bless the good work, and cause Thy enemies to be accursed and crushed."

All the Churches on earth were mere branches—some more flourishing and fruitful, some more sterile and corrupt —of the Universal Church of which Christ was the head. The comforting aid derived from Church fellowship was important; but it was far more important that even one should for himself approach, like a trusting child, the footstool of the Loving Father, and be persistent in asking for strengthening help and the communion of the Holy Ghost. Popes, priests, and ministers were too apt to substitute almost entirely the aids, crutches, and small idols of imperfect worship, ritualism, and discipline for the life-giving faith that came through each one studying the Scriptures for himself, and transacting his own business prayerfully and obediently with the All-Father. The collective grace and light thus individually obtained, formed the true strength of earthly Churches, and did more than all things else to advance Christ's Kingdom upon earth. In truth, without this individual seeking after the better life, earthly Churches were apt at times to be hindrances to pure religion, and extinguishers of living faith. Let them therefore seek Christ, God made manifest in the flesh, the only Mediator, the Head of the Universal Church, the Judge of all, but also the Lamb of God, who came to take away the sin of the world. Let them learn from the Spirit of Truth how to walk humbly with their Maker; and let them seek earnestly to understand, even if but darkly and imperfectly, the breadth, length, and depth of the love of God, " who so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish but have everlasting life."

Mr Macphadrig's sermon was not long. The majority of his hearers, indeed, thought it a great deal too short. Much of it was outside the rutted tracks of customary preaching. If preached in English, heresy-hunters could find doubtful stuff in it. There could be no doubt it was a damper for the effective partisanship people, with their loud self-praise, and their glib revilings of black Moderates and the constituted authorities of the land.

Duncan Ban was seated conspicuously on the top of the highest dun. Calum was on one side of him and Diarmad on the other. At his feet were Ewan Mor, his sister Jessie, Mary Macintyre, and other black Moderates, young and old. As soon as Duncan Ban and his company occupied this ground, one of the holy sisters gave it the name of Mount Gerizim; and Ealag published the name among the faithful while people were taking their places before the singing of the first psalm. Ealag and some of the sisters occupied the next mound, and they keenly watched the bearing of the Moderates, expecting they should be made to writhe under well deserved rebuke, and threats of brimstone dressings for remaining behind in doomed Babylon, when their neighbours escaped from captivity and returned to the Land of Canaan. But the sermon was not the sort of thing they wished for that day; and they were bitterly disappointed to see Duncan Ban's face glowing with fascinated admiration, and with eyes half closed, and hand behind his ear, listening as if to a message from the Land of the Leal;. while all the other black Moderates, young and old, were as attentive and reverential as if Mr Macphadrig belonged to their own kirk.


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