"LOUDOUN'S bonny woods and
braes," among which he was to spend the next five years of his life,
stretch in picturesque variety for about six miles along the banks of the
Irvine Water. At the lower end of the parish the towers of Loudoun Castle
peer over the thick foliage of the surrounding park, while at the other
extreme Loudoun hill, rising in bold solitude like another Ailsa Craig,
closes in the rich valley, and separates it from the dreary moor of
On the recommendation of
Dr. Chalmers, Norman Macleod was asked to preach at Loudoun during the
vacancy caused by the death of the previous minister, and the Dowager
Marchioness of Hastings, widow of the celebrated Governor-General of
India, who was then patron of the parish, resolved, after very careful
deliberation, to present him to the living. He was accordingly ordained as
its minister on the 15th March, 1838, and entered on his new duties with a
humble and resolute heart.
He was but a short time in
the parish before he saw that he had difficult work before him. The
population numbered upwards of four thousand, of whom a small proportion
were farmers and farm-workers, and the rest hand-loom weavers residing in
the large villages of Newmilns and Darvel. Both farmers and weavers were
of a most interesting type. Not a few of the former were Covenanters, and
some were on lands which had been tenanted by their families since the
twelfth century. The traditions of Drumclog and Bothwell Brig were still
freshly repeated at their firesides, and swords and pistols that had done
service against Claverhouse were their treasured heir-looms. The weavers
were of a totally different stamp, being keen politicians, and as a rule,
advanced radicals. Their trade was being gradually extinguished by the
great factories, and the men were consequently poor; but they were full of
enthusiasm, fond of reading, and had that quaint intelligence, strongly
coloured with self-conceit, which was characteristic of the old race of
Scotch websters. Most of them were keen Chartists, some violent infidels,
who, with Tom Paine as their text-book, were ready for argument on any
question of Church or State. The morality of the parish was at the same
time very low, and vital godliness was a rarity.
While living in lodgings at
Newmilns till his Manse should be ready for his reception, he was shocked
by the amount of profanity and coarseness which met eye and ear, as well
as surprised at the keen interest taken by the people in public questions.
Political debate seemed to be carried on at every corner. The groups
gathered here and there in the street, or the crowds clustered on the
"Green" round a tree, under whose branches a village demagogue was
haranguing about the Charter or the Corn Laws, displayed an excitement
which is usually reserved for a parliamentary election. There was
something hopeful, however, in all this life and stir, which,
notwithstanding its association with scepticism and religious
indifference, did not fail to impress his mind.
The work in which he first engaged was careful
house to house visitation, recording as he went along the circumstances of
every family with great minuteness, and his impressions of individual
character. He at the same time opened classes and organized a Sabbath
school;. and in order to meet the case of those who excused themselves
from going to church at the ordinary hour of worship on account of having
no suitable clothing, he commenced special evening services. He made also
a determined stand for the strict exercise of church discipline, believing
that, if good for nothing else, it would at all events serve to raise the
tone of public opinion as to the character of certain sins which were too
This energetic action of the young minister excited at once hearty
sympathy and hearty opposition. The church was crowded, and he was soon
encouraged by learning that his labours were not without effect. On the
other hand, the Chartists were not a little suspicious of the growing
influence of the "Tory" clergyman—although he meddled little with
politics—and the semi-infidels were thoroughly roused into opposition.
Some of the most violent of these two parties would have put an end, if
they could, to his evening services, and attended them for the purpose of
creating disturbance. One Sunday he bore with the interruption they gave
him; on the next he remonstrated ; but this failing, he turned to the
people who had come to hear him— told them that he had undertaken extra
labour for their benefit, and added, that if they wished him to go on they
must expel those who disturbed him. He then sat down in the pulpit. After
a pause, a number of men rose, and ejected the intruders. This firmness
served greatly to strengthen his influence in the parish: those who had
scoffed loudest came to appreciate his earnestness, and not a few sceptics
were among the most sincere of his converts. Among other means employed by
him for reaching the more intelligent of the would-be philosophers, who
stood aloof from Christianity, he brought his previous study of natural
science into requisition, and gave a series of lectures on geology, which
by their eloquence, as well as by the amount of well-digested information
they contained, told with great effect. In this manner he gradually became
master of a difficult position, and Avon an enthusiastic attachment from
the parishioners which has never declined.
There were two dissenting churches in the
parish, with whose excellent ministers, Mr. Bruce and Mr. Rogerson, he
maintained a lifelong friendship. One of these congregations met at Darvel
and consisted of Covenanters avowing a refreshingly stern morality, and
combining with it articles of faith, especially in reference to the
observance of the Sabbath, as quaint as they are now rare. He had thus
extremes, from Covenanter to Chartist, to deal with ; and between the two
many amusing phases of character presented themselves to his observation.
On his first " diet of visitation" at Darvel, he called on an old pauper
woman who was looked upon as a great light among the Covenanters. When he
entered the house he found her grasping her tin ear-trumpet (for she was
very deaf,) and seated formally in the midst of a group of neighbours and
co-religionists summoned to meet him. Unlike his other parishioners she
did not at first acknowledge him as minister, but, beckoning him to sit
down beside her, and putting the trumpet to her ear, said, "Gang ower the
fundamentals!" and there and then he had to bawl his theology till the old
dame was satisfied, after which he received a hearty welcome as a true
ambassador of Christ.
In contrast with this type of parishioner, he
used to refer to a well-known Chartist, who lived in the usual little
cottage consisting of a but containing the loom, and of a ben containing
the wife. Met at the door of this man's cottage, by the proposal, that
before proceeding further they should come to an understanding upon the
"seven points," he agreed to this only on condition that the pastoral
visit should first be received. Minister and Chartist then sat down on the
bench in front of the door, and the weaver, with shirt-sleeves partly
turned up and showing holes at the elbows, his apron rolled round his
waist, and a large tin snuff-mull in his hand, into whose extreme depth he
was continually diving for an emphatic pinch, propounded with much pompous
phraseology his favourite political dogmas. When he had concluded, he
turned to the minister and demanded an answer. " In my opinion," was the
reply, "your principles would drive the country into revolution, and
create in the long-run national bankruptcy." "Nay—tion—al bankruptcy!"
said the old man meditatively, and diving for a pinch. "Diy—ye—think—sae?"
Then, briskly, after a long snuff, "Dod! I'd risk it!" The naivete of this
philosopher, who had scarcely a sixpence to lose, "risking" the nation for
the sake of his theory, was never forgotten by his companion.
About this time a Universalis!, noted for his argumentativeness, resolved
to heckle the young minister. Macleod first questioned him on the precise
nature of his belief in universal salvation. "Do you really assert that
every person, good and bad, is saved, and that, however wicked they may
have been on earth, all are at once, when they die, received into glory?"
" Most certainly," replied the man. "A great and merciful Father must
forgive every sinner. He is too good not to make all His creatures happy."
"Then why do you not cut your throat?" "Cut my throat!" exclaimed his
astonished visitor, "I have duties to fulfil in the world." "Certainly;
but it seems to me that if your views are right, your highest duty is to
send every one to heaven as fast as possible. On your principles every
doctor should be put in jail, and the murderer honoured as a benefactor."
The effect of this argumentum ad absurdum was not only to convince the man
of the extravagance of his beliefs, but to lead him shortly afterwards to
become a communicant.
His frank, manly bearing, his devotion to his
work, and his tact and skill in dealing with every variety of character,
rendered his personal influence as powerful as his pupil teaching. Yet the
work seemed for a long time weary and disappointing. He often returned to
the Manse so utterly cast down by the conviction that he was doing no
good, that he would talk of giving up a profession for which he did not
seem fit. It was only when he was about to leave the parish that he fully
saw how mistaken he had been in his estimate of himself. The outburst of
feeling from many of those whom he had looked upon as utterly indifferent,
and the thanks heaped upon him for the good he had done, surprised and
humbled him. It was not till the last week, not almost till the last
Sabbath of his ministry in Loudoun, that he was in the least aware of the
extent to which his work had prospered.
With several families in the neighbourhood he
enjoyed the most friendly intercourse. Among these were the Craufurds of
Craufurdland and the Browns of Lanfine; but the home which, for many
reasons, afforded him some of his happiest, as well as most trying, hours
was Loudoun Castle. Nothing could have exceeded the confidence which the
venerable Countess of Loudoun and her daughters, the Ladies Sophia
[Afterwards Marchioness of Bute.] and Adelaide Hastings, placed in him.
They not only honoured him with their friendship and brightened his life
by letting him share the society of the interesting people who visited the
castle, but they also accorded him the privilege of being of use and
comfort to them in many trying hours in their family history.
His domestic life at this time was of the
freshest. His Manse was pitched on the summit of a wooded brae, beneath
which ran the public road, and behind it lay the glebe, with a sweet burn
forming a sequestered and lovely haugh. His natural taste for flowers
ripened here into a passion, which was in no small degree inflamed by an
enthusiastic gardener, whose hobby was pansies and dahlias. Often on a
summer morning, early as the song of the lark, might the shrill voice of
old Arnot be heard as, bending over a frame, he discussed with the
minister the merits of some new bloom. A pretty flower-garden was soon
formed, and a sweet summer-house, both destined to be associated, in the
minds of many, with the recollection of conversations full of suggestive
ideas as to social, literary, or religious questions, and enriched with
marvellous bits of humorous personification, and glimpses of deep poetic
he went to Loudoun, his sister Jane came to reside with him, and continued
for eleven years under his roof, his very "alter Ego," sharing his every
thought, possessing his inmost love and confidence, and exercising the
best influence on all his feelings. His habit was to rise early and devote
the morning and forenoon to hard study, usually carried on in a room
darkened so as to prevent distraction from outside objects. His studies
were chiefly theology and general literature, his sermons being often
delayed till late in the week. He devoted the afternoon, and frequently
the evening, to parochial work, especially when visiting among the
farmers, who followed the good old Scotch habit of hospitably entertaining
the minister when he went to their houses. These kindly meetings—his
"movable feasts," as he called them—gave him an excellent opportunity of
becoming well acquainted with each household in the "landward " parish.
But when he was at home, the evenings were usually spent in the enjoyment
of music, in reading aloud, or in playing a game of chess with his sister.
Highland pibrochs, and reels, and Gaelic songs, alternated with such old
ballads as "Sir Patrick Spens," "The Arethusa," "Admiral Benbow;" then
came snatches of German song, some Weimar-recalling waltz of Strauss, or
the grand sonatas of Beethoven or Mozart. It was his delight to read
aloud. Shakespeare and Scott, and especially such characters as Jack
Falstaff and Cuddy Headrigg, were his favourites; and as at this time
Dickens was issuing the "Old Curiosity Shop" and "Barnaby Rudge," nothing
could exceed his excitement as some new part of the story of Little Nell
or of Dolly Varden arrived. Wordsworth, however, was his chief delight,
and few days passed without some passage from his works being selected for
meditation. But in the midst of all his cares and studies, he retained not
only a boy's heart, but a love of boyish fun perfectly irresistible. When
his old friend, Sir John Campbell, of Kildaloig, who had been at sea most
of his life, came to spend a winter with him, the two friends used to
indulge in many a sailor prank from the sheer love both had for the brine.
The dinner-bell was rigged up as on shipboard, and at mid-day Sir John
struck eight bells as solemnly as if the watch had to be changed. Then
Norman, suddenly emerging from his study, would greet him with a run of
sailor lingo, and voice, gait, countenance, the rolling of an imaginary
quid in his cheek, became thoroughly nautical. A sham "observation" was
taken, and after a hearty laugh the door was shut, and he returned to hard
study once more.
These five years at Loudoun were the very spring-time of his ministerial
life. Full of romantic dreams, and overflowing with hopeful enthusiasm, he
conviction was then formed, which afterwards germinated into notable
action on the larger field of his future career, and many a line of
thought became fixed, determining his after course. That sweet Manse-life,
and the warm attachment of the parishioners, shed to the very last a halo,
as of first love, over " dear, dear Loudoun."
"To hear his days before
him, and the tumult of his life."
From his Journal :—
"Dec. 27th, 1837.—I preached last Sunday at
Loudoun, and I believe gave satisfaction. I have every reason to believe
that no veto will be attempted.
"Loudoun, Dec. 31, 1837. Sunday Night, 11
o'clock.—'The year is waning.' In an hour, 1838 will have arrived. Let me
time five years ago I was with dear James! Yes, dear boy, I remember you.
I believe you are in heaven. Are you looking upon me now, Jamie 1 Are you
looking with anxiety upon me, and longing to see me obtain the victory and
be with yourself and our dear sister in heaven along with our beloved
Saviour! By His grace that victory will be obtained. Yes, I have vowed to
fight, and in God's strength I shall conquer. I will trust in Him, who is
the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. Dearest, we shall all meet. I
know it. I believe it. Lord, help my unbelief!
"Into Thy hands, O God, this night, I commit
my spirit in stepping into the future 1838.
"Jan. 14th.—Have heard this day from Loudoun,
that yesterday my call was moderated and there was not one objector. This
is certainly pleasant and most gratifying.
"East Kilbride Manse, Sunday Evening, 4th
Feb.—I have been reading the Memories of the Rev. C. Wolff, the poet. He
was a fine fellow. There is something very affecting in his whispering to
his sister, who was bending over him as he was dying—'Close this eye, the
other is closed already, and now farewell!'
"March 12th, Sunday.—This is the last day I
shall probably ever preach as a mere preacher. I have not yet been a year
licensed, and upon Thursday first I expect, D.V., to be ordained.
"How awful is the tide of time!
"Thank God from my heart that for some time
past I have been endeavouring to see Christ as all in all. But when I look
forward to my ordination, it is very, very solemn. As the day approaches,
I feel a shrinking from it. It is first of all a fearful responsibility,
and then I have not one suitable sermon which I can give the Sunday after
my induction, and no lecture of any kind! The very intellectual labour
terrifies me. I pray to be supported by God.
"March 15th.—How shall I begin this day's
diary? What reflections shall I make, what thoughts shall I express when I
state the fact that I was THIS DAY ORDAINED A MINISTER OF THE CHURCH OF
indeed is a point in a man's life, an awful division of time!
"But what are my feelings?
"I bless my Father and my Saviour for the love
shown to me. I was enabled to have sweet communion with God. Before going
into the church, and while kneeling beneath the hands of the Presbytery, I
was, by God's assistance, enabled to devote heartily my soul and body to
the service of my parish, which I trust may be accepted."
To the Rev. A. Clerk:—
"Newmilns, March 25, 1838.
"I was ordained here on the 15th. You know
what an awful thing it is. I feel as if the weight of those hands was
still upon my head, crushing me with responsibility. But it was a
delightful scene. Never was a more unanimous, a more hearty welcome, and
with real good-will was my hand shaken, from the marchioness to the
pauper. Dr. Black (Barony) introduced me. I got well over my first sermon,
'Now are we ambassadors.' Once or twice nearly overcome; and this day I
have preached twice. I have been, then, in the parish a week, have been
over it all, visited each day from ten till five; and what do I think of
it? Why, that it is in a terrible state—very terrible! Its population is
four thousand. The rural part is good and respectable, and so is Darvel—because
there a most admirable, intelligent, well-read, kind-hearted, frank, godly
man, a Covenanting minister, has been, who goes into every good work with
heart and soul, and 'loes me as a verra brither.' But Newmilns! What a
place! I am now in clean, comfortable lodgings. I am acquainted with the
real state of things. Never, never, was there such desecration of the
Lord's Day: dozens and dozens of lads walking about and trespassing on
fields, and insulting the people and fearing neither God nor man. A large
proportion of the population are born before marriage ! The mass of the
youth are sent to work before they can read, and in a few years are
independent of their parents. In short, between drunkenness and swearing
and Sabbath-breaking, the village is in a dreadful state—and may God have
mercy on it! There is in all the parish an awful want of spiritual
religion. The Hastings family are the most delightful I meet with. I am
there as in my own home, and the time I spend with them is the happiest in
the week. I do love them. But what Archy, is to be done? Well, this much I
will say—that I trust God has given me a deep-felt conviction of my utter
inability to do anything. (At this very moment you would think a school
was coming out, from the noise in the street!) I was going on to say that
while on the one hand I am cast entirely on Him for help, yet I am also
led to use all the means in my power to effect a change. I have been
enabled boldly, in private and public, to exhort and rebuke and speak the
truth. I have already visited a good deal and, as far as I could, preached
Christ. I rise at six and write till nine—I must do this. Till five I am
at the disposal of my parish; from that till ten I read and write. I begin
upon Wednesday family visitation in this village. I will only attempt two
days a week, and two hours each day; but I must, as soon as possible, get
acquainted with the people, so as, under God, to try and put a stop to
this monstrous wickedness. I will next year catechise. One thing I am
determined to make a stand on, and that is church privileges. As far as
the law will permit me I will go—and further if I can. I am eagerly
desirous to get family worship established—of that there seems not to be a
vestige, except among the Cameronians, and there every family has it. I
can hardly make it as yet a sine qua non for baptism, but I will very
nearly do it, and soon I think I shall. I have only four elders. The
church does not hold the communicants; it is, of course, crammed. There
are no good Sabbath Schools, no Bible societies. The assessments amount to
about £200 a year. Oh, that the Lord would pour His Spirit out on the dry
and thirsty ground! He can do it—and I pray, for Christ's sake, that He
may do it, for I feel as fit to change the course of the sun as the hearts
of this people. But what a heart I have myself! Oh, my dear friend, you
know me well, you will help me, will you not, with your prayers and with
Manse is very beautiful. I am making many changes in the grounds. The
birds are beginning to sing. 'They are busy in the wood;' and it calms me
to sit in the woods and listen to them—for if God is so kind to them, and
fills them with so much happiness, I feel assured he will never forget a
minister in the church of his dear Son, unless he forgets Him.
"This is the first day I have fairly begun
work in my parish. I studied from five to nine. Visited T------P------. He
seems dying. He was the first sick person I have ever visited. I spoke to
him by himself; found him, I think, indifferent. He admitted the truth of
all I said, but I could not get him to close with the offers of Christ. It
is my delight and comfort to expatiate on the fulness and freeness of the
Gospel without money and without price; for I find, as I did with P------,
that they will not accept of Christ without bringing something to Him. And
while they are willing to say that He is a Saviour, they will not say He
is their Saviour. I spoke to him as solemnly as I could, urging him to
accept Christ as he was, and to come to Him as he was—even as he would
have to answer to God!
"March 20th.—A. M------, a perfect specimen of
a deist—at one time an atheist, at another a deist—knowing nothing,
believing nothing ; harsh, impetuous, proud, prejudiced, yet believing
himself candid—a difficult man; yet had two children baptized. I spoke an
hour with him, but it is like combating the wind. I promised to send him
books. [Yet this man afterwards became a communicant, and is, I hope, a
"3rd April.—Since my ordination I have been busy in the parish. I find
kindness and attention everywhere I go,—down from that dear Hastings
family to the lowest on the poor's list.
"Sunday, June 10th.—Last Sabbath I entered my
twenty-seventh year. Another year nearer the grave. . . I rejoice that
many love Thee on earth better than I do, and that the angels in heaven
adore Thee in suitable ways. I rejoice that thou art glorious without my
aid. I thank God that any man being converted to Christ would rejoice me,
and that, from my soul I say it, I would do so though it were not through
my instrumentality. I thank Him for the longings He often gives me after
better things, and for the love with which He often fills my soul for Him
and for all Christ's disciples. I thank Him that during the last year He
has showered down on me innumerable blessings.
"O God, Thine eye has seen me write these
things ! Omnipresent ! I rejoice that Thou knowest the heart. I have not
one thing that I can plead—no faith, no repentance, no tears. A sinner I
am. But oh, God I will, in opposition to all the temptations of the flesh
and corrupt, hard heart—I will throw myself, with all my strength, in
simplicity and, I trust, in godly sincerity on Christ, and Him crucified,
and say this is all my salvation and all my desire.
"June 7th, 1838, Loudoun.—I am very happy
here, and I believe I may say that I and the people are the best of
friends. I never received greater civility—the very voluntaries came
outside their doors to shake hands with me. The church is crowded to
suffocation—stairs and passages, and I never use a scrap of paper. I have
an odd congregation of rich and poor, lords ladies, and paupers; but all
sinners. I am often frightened when I think of my mercies.
"June 25th.—I have had to-day, or this
evening, much joy and much humility. A woman told me that I had been
blessed for the good of her soul, and given her joy and peace; and I think
she gave evidence from what I saw of her that she is a true believer. She
gave me likewise five shillings for any religious purpose. She will and
does pray for me. I wept much at this proof of God's love. I—that I should
be made such an instrument. But, blessed be God's name, He may make a fly
do His errands. He is good and gracious—and oh! I hope I may save some ; I
pray I may bring some to Christ, for His sake. May I be humble for all God
is doing for me ! His blessings crush me ! May they not destroy me ! May
Christ be magnified in me !"
To a Friend:—
"Loudoun, September 20, 1838.
"Your mind is a good, strong, vigorous one,
but you are inclined to indolence. You require the stimulus of society and
of external circumstances to go on your course. You are more of a sailing
ship than a steam ship—the power which propels you must come from without
more than from within. You are well built, have famous timber, a good
compass, good charts; but you want a 'freshening breeze to follow.' You
must then rouse yourself; set every sail, and catch the breeze you have.
You have many things to stir you up. You have a noble moral experiment to
try—the rearing immortal souls. It is no experiment, thank God ! It is
certainty, if the right means are used. If you do not study, you are gone.
I beseech you, I implore of you, my dear old fellow, do not give up study.
Beware of backsliding; beware of descending. It is a terribly accelerated
motion! Beware of the fearful temptation of thinking that you have had
sufficient evidence of being converted, and that as the Elect never are
lost you may take some ease in Zion. This is not too much for the wicked
heart of man to conceive. Remember, we must grow in grace—we must ever
fight if we are to obtain the victory. Christ waits to 'see of the travail
of His soul.' Let us not ' quench the Spirit.' The demand will bear a
proportion to the work done. I thank you very much for what you said to
me. It has cleared up the mist a little. You are very right about not
seeking too much for evidence. I feel its truth. We are so anxious to be
safe merely—more than to be holy. I am by no means satisfied that I have
been really converted. From my natural constitution I am liable to be
deceived. My feelings being easily excited to good as well as bad, I am
apt to mistake an excited state of the feelings for a holy state of the
heart; and so sure am I of the deception, that when in an excited state
regarding eternal things, I tremble, knowing it is the symptom of a fall,
and that I must be more earnest in prayer. Self-confidence is my ruin. I
deeply feel, or rather I am clearly conscious, of a dreadful coldness
regarding the saving of souls. I have seldom a glimpse of true love for a
soul. It is an awful confession, but it is true. Oh this body of death !
this soul-killing, this murdering sin ! When, when will this Egyptian
darkness be for ever past? When shall this leprosy be finally healed? Oh
that my soul were but one half hour saturated and filled with a sense of
God's love to me a sinner! If I could only obtain one full and clear
glimpse of the gulf to which sin has brought me and from which Christ has
saved me, I know that I would go to the world's end if by any possibility
I could lead another to see the same great salvation. Never, never can we
succeed as ministers unless we are personally holy. Power, genius,
learning, are mere skeletons—this the life; magnificent statues to call
forth the highest admiration from men of taste and feeling, but not living
things to love, to rouse to action, to point to heaven, to tell of
heavenly things ; and so it is my parochial visitations, my prayers at
sick beds, my Sabbaths, my duties in school, that crush me most to earth.
So little real love of God, so little real single-heartedness for the
magnifying of Christ, so much self-satisfaction, that my only comfort is
my having a good and great High Priest, who can bear the iniquity of our
holy things. Pray, pray—this is the sheet anchor. I am going to establish
prayer meetings when I get my new eldership, and I trust they will be
spiritual conductors (so to speak) to bring down good gifts to this
Lord Jeffrey in church. I never had a more fixed and attentive listener.
Luckily, I was thoroughly prepared. I generally take eight hours to write
a sermon. I rise at six. I never begin to commit until Saturday night—four
readings do it. The church is crammed; they are sitting outside the doors,
and come from all quarters. All this is very well, but what if God
withholds the blessing? I pray He may be glorified. I do not understand
your question. Answer me the following:—
"1. Do the posterity of Adam, unless saved by
Christ, suffer final damnation on account of Adam's sin? If so, how is
this reconciled with justice?
"2. How can we reconcile it
with justice that men should come into the world with dispositions so bad
that they invariably produce sin that leads to damnation?
"3. If the unregenerate are dead in sins, then
all they do is sin; therefore, whatever they do in that state is
abominable to God. Are their exercises and strivings so? their attendance
on means of grace?
"4. Is the imputation of righteousness the transfer of the righteousness
itself, or are the beneficial consequences of the righteousness alone
"Chalmers came to Kilmarnock to meet the Presbytery. It was the old story.
He made a great impression. At one time how I did laugh ! He had a bundle
of letters from colliers, &c., about Stob Hill. He let them all fall in
the precentor's box, where he was standing. He disappeared searching for
them. At one time you would see his back, at another an elbow, then his
head, reaching out the cushions of the seat to any one who liked to take
them; in short, all topsy-turvy, and his face as red as a turkey-cock."
From his Journal:—
"Oct.14th.—Tempus fugit. The stream of life
flows sensibly on. 'I hear the mighty waters rolling evermore.'
"Upon this day last week (Sabbath) I slept for
the first time in my own house. This to a clergyman is like stepping on
the great table-land of life. To me it is especially so; for, being
perfectly satisfied with my lot, having no ambitious feelings to gratify,
or rather, it may be, having too strong ambitious feelings to be satisfied
with anything I can ever reasonably expect to have in this world, I
consider myself fixed for life, be it long or short. Long I do not expect
it to be. I am not made for long life. I feel every Sunday that the
machine suffers very considerably from friction.
"27th July.—I had a strange day of visitation.
I was called in to see a man who had a few hours before been struck by
palsy. On Sunday he was at the Lord's Table; to-day he is dying. He was in
a half stupor: He recognized me, and said, in a low voice, with half-shut
eyes, 'I rely solely on the merits of Christ, and him crucified? I hope my
anchor is safe within the vail! I hope so! Came home at dinner time, and
while I was waiting for dinner, I went across to see M------, whom I had
seen yesterday. I found him alone, and weaker and more breathless than
when I saw him last. I spoke to him of Christ, and besought him to close
with the offers of salvation. I prayed for him earnestly, beseeching
Christ to accept him. When I was done, he took my hand— 'I thank you,' he
said; 'p—p—pray for me in private and in public on Sunday, if I am alive.'
As I took his hand, I said, ' Why, now, can you not take Christ as you
take me? He is stretching forth his hands, refuse Him not. He is all
sufficient, can give you all you want, and beseeches you to take. And
what, M------, if you are dead before Sabbath? What if you do see Christ?
Would you like to see Him and his Apostles?' I
then sent for his daughter to sit beside him. I came home and fell on my
knees and prayed for him, as he desired. I came to my room. A sudden
scream was heard. His daughter had just arrived. Her father was in
eternity! How awful! Oh, may God stir me up to greater diligence and zeal!
Into Thy hands I commit my soul and parish!
"Newmilns, Jan. 2, 1839.—I am getting on here
slowly, but, I trust, surely. I continue visiting regularly, and find it
of much benefit. I am enabled always to commence it by private prayer, and
to lay the different cases before God on my return. Yet it is always mixed
with prodigious formality, hypocrisy, and vain glory. Infidelity is
getting rampant, and it was not known to have had so extensive a hold in
the parish till I came here. They read Paine aloud to a party ! I grieve,
yet I have no fear. Fear is the child of Atheism. ' The people imagine a
vain thing. The Lord will hold them in derision.' There are six things
which I hope may be blessed, as useful instruments for doing good—a new
church; second, an eldership ; third, an infant school; fourth, prayer
meetings ; fifth, catechetical diets; sixth, an evening Sabbath class for
young men; and I should add ten-fold greater strictness in giving
admission to the ordinances— 'professing faith in Christ, and obedience to
Him!' How much is in this ! yet to this we must come, and by God's grace I
shall come, if but one child is baptised in the year. Think only of a man
asking baptism for a bastard child; he was a communicant; and when I
asked, ' who was the Holy Ghost?' he answered, 'I believe he was a man!'
"I was at the assembly. I am, for a wonder,
getting modest on Church politics, and begin to believe what I often
feared—that I know nothing about them. Yet like all who are ignorant, I
have got a superstitious dread of something being wrong about the
decisions of the High Side. All the old hands are alarmed, the young only
are confident. A smoke was my only argument!"
To his Aunt, Mrs. Maxwell:— "Loudoun, April
just been looking out at the window. There is a thin, transparent mist
along the bottom of the valley, with the tops of trees appearing above it,
and above them the sky is calm and blue; the shrubs are all bursting into
life, and the birds are busy in the woods furnishing their manses, with no
bills but their own. There they go! Whit-ee whit-ee tui-tu-e-e
chuch-chuck-tirr tu-e-e-tirr tui-tui roo-too. If my poor mother heard
them, she would say that they would hurt their backs, and that they were
overworking their system. There is an old thrush opposite the window who
will sweat himself into a bilious attack, if he does not take care. The
old fool, I suppose, wishes to get married, or he is practising for some
wedding, and is anxious to know whether or not he remembers all his old
songs. My blessings on their merry voices. They do one's heart good. How
exquisitely does Christ point to nature, Unking the world without to the
world within! 'Behold the fowls of the air!' Yes, let us behold them ;
they are as happy as the day is long; they have survived a dreary winter
without any care or anxiety—and why? 'Their heavenly Father feedeth them.'
How comforting the application, 'Are ye not much better than they?' Yes,
verily; nearer to God, dearer to God; His children, not His birds. '
Behold the lilies how they grow !' There they are, under my window in
hundreds; and yet, a short time ago they were all hid in snow, and now
Solomon is outdone by them in beauty. ' Why take ye thought for raiment?'
God, that gave the life, can give the meat; He who gave the body can give
the clothing. He who takes care of birds and flowers, will take care of
His own children. ' Wherefore do ye doubt?' He knoweth we need those
things; if He does so, if He cares for us, why should we care 1 Let us
seek, first, His kingdom and righteousness as the way to it; and God, who
cannot lie, says, ' All these things shall be added unto
you'—'added'—given over and above. Oh ! that we felt that the best and
only sure way of getting things of this world was first to attend to the
things of another, then we would take no disquieting or uneasy thoughts
about the future. Each day comes with its own cares, which need no
increase by adding to them the cares of the next. ' Sufficient, indeed, is
each day's evil for itself, and with each day is strength for the cares of
that day, though no strength is promised to relieve us from the additional
cares we gather in from the morrow.' How few receive the real practical
benefits of these truths—these precious promises; and why? They do not
believe that their interests are in safe-keeping in God's hands. They do
not permit Him, unreservedly, to choose their inheritance for them. They
have 'excepts' for the moment. You see the effects of preaching three
sermons on Sunday—I preach a fourth on Monday.
"My father talks of going to Ireland in ten
days; if he does, I go with him. Everything goes on well in the
parish—lots to do. The Manse is looking beautiful. Spring is the finest of
all the seasons. Hope is its genius."
Dr. Macleod, Sen., to Mrs. Gray:—
"Belfast, Tuesday and Wednesday (what day of
the month, I know not), June, 1839.
"Norman, Clerk, and I, set
out on Monday evening, on the self-same day on which you left for the Isle
of Mist—we for 'the sweet Isle of the Ocean,' the green, the charming
Emerald Isle. The word was given, 'Set on,' and on we went, splash,
splash. A noble boat the Rapid. We sailed as on a mirror—ocean reflecting
the loveliness of the stars, the young moon, the Craig of Ailsa, and my
face ! We left the blue hills of Arran sleeping in calm serenity on the
face of the mighty deep, and Lamlash Isle like an infant in its bosom.
"We had a most delightful sail up to Belfast
on Tuesday morning. Reached it at eight o'clock, and went to the Synod
Norman and Clerk got a car and set off for Lisburn; from that to Loch
Neagh, Lord O'Neile's place. I was received at the Synod with cheers. 1
attended two days, made a long speech, and heard most heart-cheering
tidings of my Irish Psalms. I was much gratified. Norman returned on
Wednesday evening literally daft; he laughed till he could laugh no more;
he tried to pass off as an Irish wit among the beggars and people, but was
beat to nothing by every man, woman, and child he met. They utterly
confounded him. He met a bird-seller; he carried a fine blackbird, with a
large yellow bill. 'What bill is that you are carrying through? Is it the
Appropriation Bill, or the Emancipation Bill?' 'Dad, yer honour,' said
Pat, ' it is neither the one, nor yet the t'other, but a better Bill than
either: 'tis the Orange Bill.'
"He came up shortly afterwards to a poor man
who had on a pair of wretched shoes, which he was endeavouring to drag
after him, but no stockings. 'Who made your shoes, friend V said Norman.
'He did not take your measure well.' 'Troth, yer honour, he did not; but
look at my stockings,' said he, clapping the bare skin—'My own darling
mother's stockings. Och, but it is themselves that fit!' He got many other
ridiculous answers of the same kind. Adieu!"
To his Sister Jane:—
"With my eyes half-shut can I write thee? With
a halo round the candle can I write thee? 'Yes!' cried Roderick. ' And
give my love, and point out the new buttons I have got on my coat; and
give her a view of me in my bonnet; and show her also my coat; and my
Rev. A. Clerk:—
had a grand soiree in Glasgow for a Congregational library. I made a
horrid fool of myself, i.e. stuck in my speech. No one saw it, but all
allowed I had done scientifically ill. It was a splendid soiree. But I
hate them. How can a man speak in an atmosphere composed of orange
acid—the fumes of tea and toast, boiling water, peak reek and gas, blown
into a hurricane by the bagpipes? A soiree I take to be a sort of
Evangelical theatre, where the ministers are the actors, and the stage
need not be jealous."
From his Journal:—
"June, 1839.— .... Luckily Puseyism, while it
is eating the vitals of the Church of England, has made no advances in
Ireland of any consequence. It is too much like Rome. I have a horror for
Puseyism. I fear it is of more danger to religion than Voluntaryism. We
are not yet alive to the importance of the controversy in Scotland.
"Thank God for our Scottish Reformers. They
lived far, far ahead of their age. The position which they occupied was
highly scientific. I do think that the Church of Scotland, from her
doctrine, worship, See., is of all Churches the best fitted to grapple
with the spirit of the age. She cannot be reformed. We are skinned down to
essentials—so much the better. 'Poor Ireland!' Poor for what? Nothing but
the want of principle. Of what avail is it to put a maniac in a palace, a
demoniac in a church? They endeavour to reform men by putting better coats
on their backs. A man must have hell taken out of himself before he can be
said to be out of hell.
"2nd August, 1839.—We had a most delightful
Communion Sabbath. Anything more quiet, beautiful, and solemn I never
cousin, the Rev. Roderick Macleod, in Skye, who was notorious for his
strict exercise of ecclesiastical discipline.] must not think all
negligent but himself. I was forced to exclude fourteen from the communion
this year who were open enemies, notorious drunkards, and such like; but
God forbid that I should exclude any man who has nothing in his external
conduct which is inconsistent with his being a Christian. Bad habits are
the only true test.
"My father preached on a lovely summer's evening to about three thousand
people in the tent. [A sort of covered pulpit put up in the open air, from
which the clergyman preaches when the crowd is too great for the church.]
Not a sound but of praise, and the voice of the preacher.
"Dec. 23rd (the anniversary of his brother's
death).—I think I may defy time to blot out all that occurred in December,
'33. That warm room; the large bed with the blue curtains; the tall, thin
boy with the pale face and jet black speaking eyes and long, curly hair ;
the anxious mother; the silent steps; then the loss of hope. The last
scene! Oh, my brother, my dear, dear brother ! if thou seest me, thou
knowest how I cherish thy memory. Yes, Jamie, I will never forget you. If
I live to be an old man, you will be fresh and blooming in my memory. My
soul rejoices in being able to entertain the hope that I shall see you in
heaven ! What days of darkness and ingratitude have I spent since I
thought I was God's ! Omnipotent God, Father of mercies, shield, buckler,
and strong tower to all Thy people, take me to Thyself; keep me, save me ;
but oh ! never, never, I beseech Thee, leave me to myself, until I join
all Thy children in heaven.
" Bless the Lord, O my soul, and be not
forgetful of all His gracious benefits!"
FROM LINES TO A SLEEPING SISTER.
Yet meekly yield when thou must drink
The righteous cup of human sorrow;
For patient suff'ring is the link
Which binds us to a glorious morrow.
"Jan. 9th, 1840.—This clay received tidings of
Lady Hastings' death. I feel my loss. A chain is broken which bound me
with others to the parish. She was a deeply affectionate and most
captivating woman. I received the following letter from Lady Sophia,
[Afterwards married to John, Second Marquess of Bute, and mother of the
present Lord Bute. The marriage ceremony was performed by Norman Macleod.]
written just before her death:—
"Kelburne, Thursday night, January 9, 1840.
"When this letter is given to you my poor
mother will be at rest; but for fear that the new flood of affliction
should overwhelm me and make me incapable of fulfilling my duty
immediately, I will write this now, that there may be no delay, as you
must receive it as soon as possible. When my father died, he desired his
right hand should be amputated and carried from Malta to be buried with my
mother, as they could not lie in the same grave, as he had once promised
her. His hand is in the vault at Loudoun Kirk, I am told, in a small box,
with the key hanging to it. My mother entrusted you with the key of the
vault, and begged you would give it to no one. May I request you to go to
Loudoun Kirk and take out the box and bring it here to me yourself, and
deliver it into my hands yourself, should my brother not have arrived ?
And I believe there must he no delay—& few hours, I am told, will end her
suffering and begin our desolation.'
"I received the letter early on Friday
morning; in half an hour I was at Loudoun Kirk. It was a calm, peaceful,
winter's morning, and by twelve I was at Kelburne."
To the Rev. A. Clerk, Aharacle:— "January 28,
"I am very
happy here— though the death of dear Lady Hastings has made a great change
to me. I assure you that few events have given me more sincere sorrow than
this. I received intelligence at seven upon Friday morning that she was
near her end. It was quite unexpected; and you know what a sickening thing
it is to be awakened with bad news. I was requested by Lady Sophia
instantly to go to Loudoun Kirk and get her father's hand from the vault
and bring it to her. In half an hour I was in the dreary place, where, but
six months ago, I was standing with Lady H. beside me. When I contrasted
the scene of death within, the mouldering coffins and 'weeping vault,'
with the peaceful morning and singing birds—for a robin was singing
sweetly—it was sad and choking. I was glad to be with the dear young
ladies the first day of their grief. They were all alone. They have been
greatly sanctified by their trials. They remain at Loudoun, I am glad to
say. Lord and Lady H. are here at present.
"As to non-intrusion, I am persuaded you are
wrong. The high party is destroying the Church."
From his Journal :—
"February, 1840.—The question of non-intrusion
is agitating Scotland. This is the day for trying principles. The extreme
views of truly good and spiritual men in the Church, and those of truly
bad and material men in the State, will bring on a gale which will capsize
have just returned from seeing the most melancholy sight I have ever yet
witnessed—a determined, hardened infidel on the very confines of eternity!
I met this unfortunate man, T---------- C--------for the first time when I
was visiting the parish; he seemed careless and dead, but did not profess
again called to see him on my return here in May, after having been about
a month absent in bad health. He was evidently dying of consumption. He
was greatly emaciated, but could converse easily, and seemed to be able to
express himself with clearness. I had heard of his having avowed infidel
sentiments, and I knew his brother to be one of the baser sort, filling up
all the degrees of blackguardism between a poacher and a blasphemer.
C---------spoke freely to me of his opinions, if opinions they could be
called. He had met with some of the lowest kind of infidel productions;
his whole idea of truth was distorted. He seemed to doubt the existence of
God, the immortality of the human soul, everything which could influence
him as a responsible being. I saw him repeatedly. I sat with him one or
two hours at a time. I read the Bible to him, gave him the evidence in
detail, and, by his own acknowledgment, fairly answered all his objections
; but in vain. He was calm, dead. The very question did not seem to
interest him. Every warning, every invitation, was to him alike. His
features changed not; he was neither pleased nor angry; and yet he knew he
had not many weeks to live. He was the most terrible instance I ever saw
of the evil heart of unbelief, hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
I have seen him for the last time to-day; he was a breathing corpse. Death
had stamped every feature. He bent his eye on me as I entered, and
motioned me to come in. I gazed at him for some time with inexpressible
feelings. There he lay, an immortal being—a sinner going to meet his God,
after having again and again rejected a Saviour. I prayed with his wife,
and one or two who were present. I then went to his bed. I said, 'Before I
go have you nothing to say?' I wished to give him the opportunity of
expressing his faith in Christ, if he had any; but he lifted up his
skeleton hand, and panted out, 'No, no; noth—nothing!' As I write this his
soul may be taking flight. May God have mercy on him.
"How often do I speculate about writing books!
I have thought of three; I generally think over a chapter of one of them
when I have nothing else to do."
His sister Annie, who had been for some months
seriously ill, and was sent to Loudoun for change of air, became at this
time rapidly worse, and expired in his Manse.
"September 5th, 10 o'clock.—I have this moment
returned from the next room, after seeing my darling sister Annie expire.
She had suffered much for three days; but her last moments were
comparatively tranquil, at least, those who have seen people die said so;
but I never saw any one die before. We were summoned to her bedside
suddenly. When I came, all were there. I prayed a short, ejaculatory
prayer, that our Father would take His child; that Christ, the dear
Redeemer, would be hers. My darling died at half-past nine.
"Darling Annie was loved by us all. She was a
sweet child; her face was beautifully mild and peaceful. She had the most
gentle, playful, peaceful, innocent manners, with feelings singularly deep
and strong for her age. Her sensibility was painful in its acuteness. She
was like a delightful presence—
"'An image gav,
A thing to startle and way lay.'
She was a sunbeam that gladdened our path, and
we were hardly conscious of how lovely and how evanescent a thing it was
until it disappeared. Her innocent laugh is still in my ears. Dead ! Oh,
what a mystery ! It was only when, two hours after her death, I knelt at
my old chair, and cried to Jesus, that I felt myself human once more, and
as I gave vent to a flood of tears the ice that for months had chilled my
soul was melted; I felt again.
"September 16th.—Upon Friday the 11th dear
Annie was buried. I look back upon the week she lay with us with a sort of
solemn joy. It was a holy week. The blessing of God seemed upon the house.
Friday was a very impressive day. Mr. Gray, Jack, and my father and I,
went together from Glasgow to Campsie. Our old friends met us at the
entrance of Len-noxtown. It seemed but as yesterday when we had in
mournful procession passed up that path before. The hills were the same.
The same shadows seemed chasing one another over their green sides as had
often filled me with happy thoughts in my young days. Yet how freshly did
the text come into my mind, "The mountains shall depart, and the hills be
removed, but My kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the
covenant of My peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on Thee.'
This relieved my oppressed heart. I felt that amidst all the changes
around me, God, and God's love, were the same yesterday, to-day, and for
ever. What a glorious thing is Revelation! 'Christ died, and rose again.'
'He died for us.' 'He rose as the first fruits of those who sleep.' There
is more wisdom, more comfort, more to heal, soothe, elevate the spirit of
man in these facts than in all that the concentrated wisdom of man could
To his Mother
"I have been, and will be, if God spares me,
this winter very busy educating both myself and my parish ; but I never
felt myself in more buoyant health and spirits. I have finished the second
visitation of Darvel and Newmilns—that is, about seven thousand
people—since I came to the parish. On Sabbath week our service begins at
twelve, and from ten till half-past eleven I am to have a Sabbath School,
which I hope will be attended by six hundred children. Thus, between my
school in the morning, and sermon at mid-day and at night, I will be able
to preach the Gospel to all in my parish ! Is not this famous 1 I have,
besides my old Wednesday evening meeting, a class for young men on Tuesday
evenings for instruction in the evidences of Christianity. I am now going
through the prophecies. The family of the chief infidel are among my
scholars. This seems hard work, but I assure you I am taking it very easy.
There is not a blacksmith, or labourer, or weaver in the parish who does
not do ten times more lor time than I do for eternity. People talk a great
deal of stuff about minister's work, or rather they talk a great deal of
stuff themselves. I would do more, but quality and not quantity is what I
wish. To show you how much idle time I have, besides walking, and teaching
a starling to speak, I have read, 1st, Guizot's 'History of Civilization;'
2nd, Arago's 'Treatise on Astronomy;' 3rd, Taylor's 'Lectures on Spiritual
Christianity;' 4th, 'Campbell of Kingsland, Life and Times;' and I have
nearly done with the fifth volume of Gibbon—all during the last five
weeks! This shows you what a luxurious dog I am.
"I have just mentioned my
starling! You never saw a more beautiful bird; and he goes flying about
the room, and sits on my head, and eats out of my hand. I am teaching him
Lord Hastings a very long and earnest letter about the church, but have
received no answer. I shall do my duty, and use every lawful means to get
a church for my poor people, come what may.
"There is a book I wish you would order for
your Reading Club—Dr. Payne of Exeter's Lectures on the Sovereignty of
God. It has revolutionised my mind. It is a splendid book, and
demonstrates the universality of the atonement, and its harmony with
4th.—I went to Glasgow on Tuesday to meet two sons of Sir Robert Peel's.
Fine lads, fresh with honours from Harrow. But I mention this fact to show
how unsettled my mind is, for it upset my good thoughts—I mean, made me
neglect the means of grace, and so I got for a day into my old way. God
forgive me! I look back on the last month as to an oasis."
In sending the following letter, Principal
Shairp writes: —
the remainder of his time in Loudoun I kept up correspondence with Norman
from Oxford. Those were the years from 1840 to 1844, when the Oxford
movement reached its climax. Often, when any pamphlet more than usually
striking came out—No. 90, and others—I would send them to Norman, and
would receive from him a reply commenting on them from his own point of
view. That, I need hardly say, was not in accordance with the Oxford
views. It was not only that he rejected the sacerdotal theory on which the
whole movement was founded,—not only that, as a Scotchman and a
Presbyterian minister, he could not be expected to welcome the view which
made his own church 'Samaria,' and handed himself and his people over to
the 'uncovenanted mercies;' but I used to think that neither then, nor
afterwards, he ever did full justice to the higher, more inward quality of
Newman's teaching, that those marvellous 'Parochial Sermons' never
penetrated him as they did others. That sad undertone of feeling, that
severe and ascetic piety, which had so great a charm for many, awoke in
Norman but little sympathy."
To John C. Shairp, Esq., at Oxford :— "27th
think you of Puseyism now? You have read No. 90, of course; you have read
the article on Transubstantiation—you have read it! Great heavens! Is this
1841? I have drawn the following conclusions from this precious document,
and from Newman's letter to Jelf:—-
"1. The articles mean nothing.
"2. Any man may sign them conscientiously, be
he Calvinist or moderate. Romanist, only let him not oppose them openly.
"3. No Oxford man need go to Romanism either
to adore (doulia) images, or praise the Blessed Virgin, or get a lift from
the saints, or gratify himself by doing works of penance—he may get all
this in a quiet way at Oxford.
"4. The Anglican system and the Popish system,
as explained by the Council of Trent, are 'like, so very like as clay to
day,' that, but for a few fleecy clouds of no great consequence, a
Catholic mind, would never see the difference.
"5. No. 90 is a dispatch to the Popish army to
send a few moderate battalions to support the Anglican Church in its flank
movement to the left from the corps d'armée of Protestantism.
"And what is all this to end in?
"The formation of an Anglo-Popish Church, independent of the State?
"The consequent breaking up of Church Establishments?
"The formation of two Churches—a moderate Episcopacy connected with the
State, and another, 'the Anglican Church,' by itself?
"An accession to the ranks of dissent?
"The strengthening of Popery, and the battle of Armageddon?"
NOTES AND THOUGHTS FROM READING, THINKING, AND
November 1, 1840.
"Under the influence of one of those whims which sometimes act upon me
like a breeze upon a windmill, I this Saturday night, 27th February, 1841,
open this book (being at present, with the exception of what goeth before,
as yet empty, albeit it is called a Book for Notes and Thoughts), for what
reason I can hardly tell, except it be:
"1. The wish to put on record a strong
suspicion I now begin to entertain—viz., that I have no thoughts which can
stand inspection, better than did Mouldy or Mr. Forcible Feeble, the
woman's tailor, before Falstaff.
"2. To put to the proof one of those sayings
which men believe, like 'great laws,' that a work begun is half done. We
"On the Salvability of the Heathen.—That no soul is saved except through
the blood of Christ, and that no soul is saved without belief in Christ,
are not equally true propositions; for, if so, all infants would be
damned. Now, as all admit that infants may without faith (of which they
are incapable from their age) be saved by having the benefits of Christ's
death imputed to them, so, for aught we know, heathen, who are incapable
of faith from their circumstances, may have the benefits of Christ's death
in the same manner, and so their natural piety will be the effect and not
the cause of God's showing mercy to them. We preach to such because we are
commanded. God may raise a sick man by a miracle; but our duty is to use
the appointed means."
"A day of fasting for the sins of the Church
has been appointed by the General Assembly to be kept on the 22nd of June,
1841. I fear some will add to its sin by fathering the most heinous faults
upon those who oppose them in Church politics. One rule, I think, should
be strictly kept to in determining what are sins—viz., those upon which
all Christians will agree. There may be disputes about facts—e. g., as to
whether the Church is covetous or not—but there should be no disputes as
to whether that is sin or not. This rule would exclude confessions anent
patronage, intrusion, &c. The Church should have drawn up a form of
prayer, and of confession—a unanimous one. The sins I consider as being
the most marked in the Church at present are: 1. Covetousness—only £20,000
from the whole Church for the cause of Christ; not £20 from each parish!
2. Too much mingling of the Church with the world; not separation enough.
3. Schism among Christians, and wrong terms of communion. 4. Strife,
bitterness, and party spirit; a want of charity and love; a not suffering
for conscience-sake. 5. Too much dependence on externals, acts of Assembly
anent calls, &c.
Church visible is to the Church invisible what the body is to the spirit—
the medium of communication with the external world. As the body without
the soul is dead, though it may look life-like, even so is the visible
Church without the invisible. The Presbyterians, I think, legislated too
transcendentally for the Church. We forgot how much we are taught by
visible things. We did not sufficiently value symbols. Popery makes the
Church a body altogether. We forget too much that there is a visible
Church; they that there is an invisible.
"As for Church government, I always look on it
as a question of dress, of clothes—or, rather, of spectacles. What suits
one eye won't suit another. What signifies whether a man reads with the
gold spectacles of Episcopacy or with the silver ones of Presbytery or
with the pinchbeck ones of Independence, provided he does read, and reads
better too with the one kind than the other, and does not blind himself
with the goggles of Popery? Though I hate schism, yet I do think that
different governments are ordered in the wisdom of God, who knoweth our
fame and remembers we are dust, to suit the different conditions of man.
One man is born with huge veneration like a ridge on his head, ideality
like hillocks; another with neither of these bumps, but in their stead
causality or reasoning like potatoes, firmness like Ailsa Craig; another
with combativeness, self-esteem, and love of approbation, like hen-eggs.
Is it not a blessing that there is for the one an old cathedral with stone
knights and 'casements pictured fair,' and seats worn with successive
generations, and a fine bald-headed prelate; and that another can get a
Presbyterian Church that will stand firm against Erastus, Court of
Session, Kings, Lords, and Commons, and can hear long metaphysical sermons
canvassing every system; and that the last can have his say in an
Independent Church, and battle with minister and elder: while, in each,
they can hear what will make them wise unto salvation? All are spectacles
for different eyes; and why fight?—why force a man to see through your
concave, or be forced to road through his convex? You will both read
wrong, or not read at all.
"I hate schism. It is a great sin to have a
visible Church unless you feel that it is only a door to the invisible
Presbyterianism is like the attempt to skin a flint."
"I read lately a very interesting book
published by the Abbotsford Club; viz., 'Records of the Presbytery of
Lanark from 1632 till 1701.' It is, I presume, a fair type of what the
Church then was; and is so!—
"The Church then wished to make the Church the
State, and the State the Church. The men in those days had no idea of true
liberty. Toleration is a modern idea. Their maxims were: 1. You have
liberty to think what is right, but none to think what is wrong. We (the
Church) are to judge what is right; ergo, you can think only as we permit
you (see also 'Confession of Faith,' chap, xx., last clause). They were a
grossly superstitious set. The above Presbytery frequently incarcerated
witches, and sent for a great ally of theirs, a certain 'George Catley,
Pricker,' to riddle the old woman with pins to find out the mark of Satan.
And yet to these men we must go for wisdom to guide us in 1841! Mercy
forbid! I am thankful to have none such Presbyterian inquisitors.
"The tendency of ultra-Calvinism (if not its
necessary result) is to fill the mind with dark views of the Divine
character; to represent Him as grudging to make men happy; as exacting
from Christ stripe for stripe that the sinner deserved. Hence a
Calvinistic fanatic has the same scowling, dark, unloving soul as a
Franciscan or Dominican fanatic who whips himself daily to please Deity.
They won't enjoy life; they won't laugh without atoning for the sin by a
groan; they won't indulge in much hope or joy; they more easily and
readily entertain doctrines which go to prove how many may be damned than
how many may be saved; because all this seems to suit their views of God's
character, and to be more agreeable to Him than a cheerful loving bearing.
"A Calvinistic enthusiast and an Arminian
fanatic are seldom met with." ". . . No creature knows the unity of truth,
or rather the whole of any truth. Each truth is but a part of a system.
That system radiates from God, the centre: the radii are innumerable. A
poor being called man lights for a moment, like a fly, upon one of the
spokes of this awful wheel, which is so high that 'it is dreadful, and
full of eyes;' and, as it moves, he thinks that he understands its mighty
movements and the revolution of the whole system!
"A truth which explains another, but which
cannot be explained, is to us a mystery. As we advance along the chain of
truth, beginning at the lowest link, mystery ascends before us—God
Himself, Who is Truth, and to Whom we approach for ever, but never reach!"
"Dr. Payne of Exeter's book, 'On the
Sovereignty of God,' is one of the best I ever read. It has been a
ring-fence to a thousand scattered ideas I have had on the subjects of
which it treats. On election and atonement I think he is invincible. That
Christ died for all, or none, seems as clear to me as day, not merely from
the distinct declaration of Scripture, but from the idea of an atonement.
If the stripe for stripe theory is given up, which it must be, a universal
atonement is the consequence. The sufficiency of Christ's death and its
universality are one and the same. Election has only to do with its
freedom of a man quoad civilia, as well as quoad spiritualia, will ever be
in proportion to the sense entertained by himself and others of his
dignity and worth. Hence the connection between Christianity and civil
liberty, and hence the folly of Chartists and Revolutionists, and all who
love or pretend to love the freedom of man, opposing the Bible, which
alone makes known man's dignity; denouncing ministers who every Sabbath
proclaim it, and urge men to know and believe it; destroying the Lord's
Day, a day when this dignity is visibly seen by men meeting on the same
spiritual platform—the same level; and refusing Church extension, which is
but a means for bringing those blessings to the masses, and thus of
helping them to obtain, use, and preserve freedom."
"Much struck with a remark in Coleridge's
'Friend,' 'that the deepest and strongest feelings of our nature combine
with the obscure and shadowy rather than with the clear and palpable.'
Hence I say: 1st, The fierceness of fanatics; 2nd, Fierceness of the
ignorant in politics and of the mob. This accounts for a fact I have
always noticed—viz., that in proportion to one's ignorance of a question
is his wrath and uncharitableness, if his feelings are but once engaged."
"Truth may be recognised in the spirit when it
is indistinctly seen by the intellect. No false proof should be removed
which tends to good, until a true one is ready to replace it.
"Shelley and Wordsworth have more power than
any men I know of making visible invisible things. See, for instance,
Shelley's poem, 'To a cloud,' Wordsworth's ode on 'Intimations of
Immortality.' Keats frequently displays in a marvellous manner the same
gift ('Magic casements opening on the foam,' 'Ode to the Nightingale'),
and so does Sir Thomas Browne, in his ' Religio Medici' and ' Urn Burial.'
If we were to remain long here, growing in feeling like the angels, we
would require an algebra —new symbols—for new thoughts."
"There are some men who, if left alone, are as
cold as pokers; but like pokers, if they are once thrust into the fire,
they become red hot, and add to the general blaze. Such are some ministers
I know, when they get into Church controversies."
"I am not surprised at David's praying to God
in the night-watches; in his rising from his bed and ascending to the roof
of his house, and when the 'mighty heart' of the city 'was lying still,'
and ' the mountains which surrounded Jerusalem' were sleeping in the calm
brilliancy of an Eastern night, that he should gaze with rapture on the
sky, and pour forth such a beautiful Psalm of Praise as 'When I consider
the heavens, the work of Thy fingers.'
"The night is more suited to prayer than the
day. I never awake in the middle of the night without feeling induced to
commune with God. One feels brought more into contact with Him. The whole
world around us, we think, is asleep. God the Shepherd of Israel slumbers
not, nor sleeps. He is awake, and so are we ! We feel, in the solemn and
silent night, as if alone with God. And then there is everything in the
circumstances around you to lead you to pray. The past is often vividly
recalled. The voices of the dead are heard, and their forms crowd around
you. No sleep can bind them. The night seems the time in which they should
hold spiritual commune with man. The future, too, throws its dark shadow
over you... the night of the grave, the certain death bed, the night in
which no man can work. And then everything makes such an impression on the
mind at night, when the brain is nervous and susceptible ; the low sough
of the wind among the trees, the roaring, or eerie whish of some
neighbour-ing stream, the bark or low howl of a dog, the general
impressive silence, all tend to sober, to solemnize the mind, and to force
it from the world and its vanities, which then seem asleep, to God, who
alone can uphold and defend."
"A holy mind is like
Herschell's large telescope, it sees by its great power heavenly truth
much more distinctly than an unrenewed mind can, and also many others
which are altogether unseen and unknown to others. But by the same
enlarged powers which enable it to see the glories of the heavens, is it
able also, nay, cannot choose but see the dust and filth in the atmosphere
of earth; let the instrument, however, be removed to a higher and purer
region, and then it will ' see clearly, and not as through a glass
"Is the gift
of saving faith the gift of a telescope—a power to see truths which are
unseen by the common eye ? or is it the removing of mists and clouds that
conceal truths, which but for those mists may be seen by every eye?
"November, 1841.—Read Arago's 'Treatise on
Astronomy.' It is very simple.
"I sometimes like to fancy things about the
stars. May there not be moral systems as well as physical? Moral wholes or
plans; a portion of the plan being carried on in one world, and another in
another world, so that, like different pieces of a machine, or like the
different stars themselves, the whole must be put together and examined
before the plan can be understood 1 The world may be a moral centre; the
centre being the cross; from which moral radii extend throughout the moral
universe. Physical space and moral space have no connection. It used to be
an old question how many angels could dance on the point of a needle; but
it had a glimmer of wisdom too, for it arose from a feeling that spiritual
things bear no relation to space. May there not be moral constellations?"
"Irish Music.—My father once saw some
emigrants from Lochaber dancing on the deck of the emigrant ship, and
weeping their eyes out! This feeling is the mother of Irish music.
"It expresses the struggle of a buoyant, merry
heart, to get quit of thoughts that often lie too deep for tears. It is
the music of an oppressed, conquered—but deeply feeling, impressible,
fanciful and generous people. It is for the harp in Tara's Halls.
"Scotch Music.—A bonny lassie with her plaid,
reclining in some Pastoral glen among the braes of Yarrow, and waking the
sleep that is among the lonely hills with some tale of love, domestic
sorrow, or of ' the flowers of the forest, a' wede awa'.'
"Highland Music.—The pibroch; the music of the
past and gone, of lonely lakes, castled promontories, untrodden valleys
and extinguished feuds, wild superstitions, and of a feudal glory and an
age of romance and song which have fled on their dun wings from Morven. It
is fit only for the large bag-pipe in the hall of an old castle, with
thuds of wind and the dash of billows as its only accompaniment.
"It is deep sorrow that is checked by lofty
pride from breaking.
"'Let foemen rage and discord burst in slaughter.
Ah then for clansmen true and stern claymore!
The hearts that would have shed their blood like water,
Now heavily beat beyond the Atlantic's roar.'
"German Music.—The music of the intellect and
thought: passion modified by high imagination. It is essentially Gothic,
vast and grand. It is for man. The shadow of the Brocken is over it; the
solemn sound of the Rhine and Danube pervade it. It is an intellectual
Music.—A dashing cavalry officer on his way to fight or make love.
"Italian Music.—A lovely woman, a Corinne,
breathing forth her soul under the influence of one deep and strong
passion, beneath a summer midnight sky amidst the ruins of ancient Roman
grandeur. It is immensely sensuous.
"Spanish Music.—A hot night, disturbed by a
Music.—' Yankee-doodle.' "
"December, 1841.—I am much mistaken in the
signs of the times, if an episcopal era is not near for Scotland's
ecclesiastical history. To form an Episcopalian Church quoad spiritualia,
we have, 1st, The old and respectable and unchanged Episcopalian families
of Scotland. 2nd, the lovers of fashion more than the lovers of God—the
families who spend a portion of their time in London, and who like a
'gentlemanly religion.' 3rd, The rich merchants, who wish to wear the new
polish, and to look like old State furniture ; who, by buying
country-houses, by marrying into good families, by getting hold of a
property with an old title, and by joining an old form of worship, labour
to persuade the world that they never sold timber or sugar since they
supplied the Ark with these commodities. 4th, The meek and pious souls who
love to eat their bread in peace, and who, weary of the turmoil in our
Church, flee to the peace of the Church of England, which seems to reflect
the unchangeableness of the Church invisible. 5th, The red-hot Tories, who
fly from disgust at the Radicalism of our Church.
"The only checks I see to this tide, which I
fear will set in for Episcopacy, are: 1st, Puseyism, which treats us as
heathen, and will tend to disgust. 2nd, That the Church of Scotland is the
Establishment, 3rd, That unless Episcopacy is endowed it cannot advance
far. 4th, That if it attempts to get an endowment, we must checkmate it by
trying the same for our churches in England, and we would do more harm to
Episcopacv in England, than they can to Presbyterianism in Scotland."
"The infidel and the superstitious equally
disregard the authority of evidence. The one disbelieves in spite of
evidence for the thing rejected the other believes, in spite of the want
of evidence for the thing received. Hence Popery and Infidelity are so
closely allied. Submission to the authority of evidence is the only
safeguard against either.
"Sabbath morning.—I put some bread for the
birds on the window, and thought if God made me so kind to birds, He must
be kind to His own creatures—to His own children. By-and-by two
chaffinches came and fought for the bread, and one was beaten off; and yet
there was abundance for both. Alas ! how many who are richly provided for
by God thus light about the bread of life, rather than partake of it
together in peace and thankfulness. The robin is eating, but with what
terror! picking and starting as if an enemy were near. Thus do Christians
partake as if the Lord grudged what He gives—as if He would not rejoice
that they took abundance."
"The best consistency is to be consistent to
one's self, by acting every day up to the light of that day. To be
governed not by any fixed point ah extra, but by the conscience ah intra,
which will vary its judgments with every change of our position. The
traveller who guides his steps in relation to one object, such as a
mountain, who wishes to keep always at the same distance from that, may,
indeed, keep moving and apparently advancing, but he is travelling in a
circle round the one object; but he who is guided by the path will always
be changing his relative position, and every step makes him inconsistent
with the scenery; but he moves on and on, and advances into new countries,
and reaches his journey's end.
"Know thyself, and be true to thyself ! Thou
art in the way of truth.
"The only consistent mariner is he who steers
by the compass, though ho is drifted leagues out of his course."
"If Christ did not die for all men, how can it
be said that God willeth all men to be saved? Can He will any to be saved
for whom there is no atonement?
"If Christ did not die for all men, in what
sense is He said to be the Saviour of all men, though specially of those
Christ did not die for all men, how can all men be commanded to believe?
What are they to believe? Is this not inviting to a supper insufficient to
feed all the guests if they came? If it is said 'God knows they won't
come.' I reply, this is charging God with conduct man would be ashamed of.
If He died, and they may, yet won't believe, this is moral guilt, not
natural inability. It is the guilt of the drunkard who cannot give up
drinking; not the guilt of the man without legs who cannot walk, which is
no guilt at all."
"Sin, like an angle, does not become greater or smaller by being produced
a pleasing thought that there cannot be different kinds of minds, as there
are different kinds of bodies. Bodies have no type of perfection, to which
they are in a greater or less degree conformed; no normal form after which
they are modelled, their degrees of perfection depending on the nearness
to which they come to this model. The zoophyte, or the hydra polype, is as
perfect an animal as the elephant, as its parts are perfectly constructed
in relation to the end it is destined to fulfil in the creation. But it is
not thus with mind. It has a type—an image; and that is God. And to this
image it must, whenever found in a right state (one according to God's
will and intention), be in conformity. To no intellect in the Universe can
the relation of numbers be different from what it is to ours. It is
impossible that God would ever create intellects to which two and two
would be anything else than four. So in regard to moral things, right and
wrong are still the same in the planet Herschel, or in heaven, as on
earth. Wherever beings exist that can know God, they must be like God. We
thus recognise in the angels the same minds and sympathies with ourselves.
When they sing praises as they announce man's redemption, we perceive the
same minds, with the same sentiments and reflections as our own; and thus,
too, mind becomes a conductor which binds us to the whole universe of
rational beings. Every mental and moral being is born after one
Dr. Donaldson, when requested to take the chair at a Burns Festival, at
Newmilns:- [It is interesting to compare his convictions at this period as
to the proper course of duty with the position he assumed at the Burns'
Centenary in 1851). (See Chapter XIV.)]
"Only consider the matter seriously as a
Christian man, and say how we can, with the shadow of consistency,
commemorate Burns after sitting down at the Lord's Supper to commemorate
the Saviour? I have every admiration for Burns as a poet; but is it
possible to separate the remembrance of his genius from the purposes for
which it was so frequently used, or rather prostituted? I would, I
daresay, have admired and wondered at the magnificent picture which Satan
exhibited to the Saviour, had I beheld it; but that would not be a reason
why it would have been allowable to have commemorated the genius and power
of the mighty being who had delighted my senses with his picture, without
any reference to the good or evil, intended to be done, or actually
accomplished, by the splendid work itself. In the same way, however much I
admire the beautiful poetry of Burns, I never can forget that, in a great
many instances (and these affording me most brilliant examples of his
powers) it has been an engine for vice; for over what vice does he not
throw the colouring of genius?
"I would willingly say nothing against him,
unless I am thus publicly called upon to commemorate him publicly and to
say something for him. I cannot, I dare not, as a Christian minister, do
this; neither can I but in the strongest manner disapprove of any dinner
to his memory. What I have said would, I well know, in the estimation of
the world, be termed cant; but with the vast majority of thoughtful,
well-informed Christians, it is a self-evident truth. Excuse this very
hurried note, written amidst many labours. You may make what use you
please of it."
his Journal :—
"August 4th.— Went with Clerk to preach at Kilmorry, a station on the west
side of Ardnamurchan. Had a fine view of the West Hebrides from the summit
of the hill. The place where he preaches is very curious.
"Before I went into church I sat down on a
knoll to gaze on the scenery. I heard the sound of praise rising from the
primitive edifice, and the lash of the waves of the great Atlantic on the
shore, and between the hymn and the ocean and the majestic scenery around
there was perfect oneness. They all praised God. But the dead cannot
praise Him; and what a lonely churchyard that one was ! One stumbled upon
it. I never saw such rude graves. I could not discover one name or one
inscription. Among heather and weeds, you find a small spot raised above
the surface, and a turf of heather over it, ill-cut and rudely put on.
There is a fearful negligence shown here of the remains of humanity. The
churchyards are not inclosed, and the graves are more rude than any I have
seen in any country. There is one grave in that remote churchyard in which
a woman lies whose history will only be known at the great day. She was
called Lowland Mary. About forty years ago she came, no one knew whence,
to this remote spot. She was then a young and pretty woman. She became a
servant to a respectable gentleman tenant, and supported herself for
thirty years. She was pleasant and communicative on every point but one,
and that was her own personal history. Whenever she was asked who or
whence she was, she got into a high state of excitement, almost mad. The
most she ever said was that her friends could support her, and insinuated
that they were well off. It was supposed she was landed from some ship.
She lived for years a solitary woman, and died a pauper this year. Clerk
was sent for to see her and could not go. Her history was never told.
"I received the following information about
Skye from a thoroughly reliable source:—
"To disregard the ordinances and sacraments of
the Church has come to be looked upon by the islanders as characteristic
of religious life. The superstitious terror with which fanaticism has
invested the receiving of Baptism or the Lord's Supper has led men to show
their reverence by the strange method of avoiding their observance. The
teaching of my cousin, Mr. Roderick Macleod, minister of Bracadale—commonly
called Mr. Rory— was the prime cause of this state of things. He held
extremely strict and exclusive views as to who should be allowed to
partake of the sacraments of his Church. He believed, and acted with
unbending rigour, on the principle that a minister should admit no one to
these Christian privileges without being full satisfied in his own mind
that the applicant was truly regenerate, while doing so he refused to make
known the tests by which he judged of men's spiritual state. The immense
majority of the people, not only in Bracadale, but throughout the island,
gradually succumbed to his rule; and while continuing nominally attached
to the Church of Scotland, yet rarely asked for her sealing ordinances,
and either grew indifferent to them, or regarded them, especially the
Lord's Supper, with such dread that no consideration would induce them to
partake of them.
"Thus, in the parish of Bracadale, with a population of 1,800, the
communicants have been reduced to eight persons. In the neighbouring
parish of Diminish the communion was never administered from the year 1829
till 1840; while in other parishes the administration was irregular, and
the number of communicants incredibly small.
[The anomalous state of
things described as existing in Skye in 1842, continues to the present
day. There are now hundreds of persons in the island—many of them fathers
and mothers, some of them grandfathers and grandmothers—who were never
baptized, while the sacrament of the Lord's Supper is looked upon by many
with indescribable dread. This gloomy view of the Holy Communion prevails
generally throughout the north Highlands ; but, as far as I know, Skye is
the only place where baptism is so generally neglected. As an instance of
the baneful effects of these feelings, even after the erroneous views on
which they are founded have been given up, a clergyman relates that when
he once asked a parishioner, who had come from the north Highlands, to
become a communicant, he was startled by the reply, " Please say no more.
I cannot answer you. I have no doubt that what you say is true ; but I
tell you that if you had asked me to commit the greatest sin, you could
not have frightened me half so much as by inviting me to sit at the table
of the Lord." Yet this man was not only intelligent and well-read, but of
a truly serious mind and excellent character.]
There are hundreds of people umbaptized, and
who, even in mature age, evince no desire to receive the sacred rite.
"There is a numerous class of lay preachers,
called 'The Men,' who do much to keep up the flame of fanaticism by fierce
denunciations of those whom they reckon unworthy communicants, and of the
pastors who dare to admit any to Christian privileges but such as have
received their imprimatur. These 'Men' are of various characters and
talents. Some of them are animated by a zeal that is genuine if not
enlightened, leading lives of strict piety, and gifted with a wonderful
flow of natural eloquence ; while others have nothing to show but a
high-sounding profession of faith, sometimes combined with great
worthlessness of character. These separatists wear a distinctive dress,
carrying a long blue cloak, and putting a, red handkerchief round their
heads in church. They judge spiritual character more by such tokens as
Sabbatarian strictness than common morality.
"Our way home was by a different but as wild a
path, which only Highland horses like Diamond and Brenda could travel. I
could not have believed it without my having seen the inimitable way in
which they picked their steps among the loose stones, and walked over
ledges of wet rock. We had one magnificent prospect on our way back from
the summit of the ridge. It was like the crater of an immense
volcano—wild, silent, savage.
"7th, Sabbath of the Communion.—The day was
wet and stormy, but it was a pleasant day to us all. The English
congregation, amounting to about twenty, met in the drawing-room of the
Manse. There I preached to them and administered the sacrament. It was a
small but solemn meeting, and had a reality about it which I liked. It
seemed more like primitive times than anything of the kind I ever saw. And
query—had no ordained minister been in the parish, and had the parish been
removed beyond St. Kilda, and had my worthy and intelligent friend, Mr.
Clerk, senr., set apart the bread and wine by prayer for sacramental use,
and had that company partaken of the same in order to remember Christ,
would this have been a 'mock sacrament,' even though no ordained minister
"11th.—Set off upon an expedition to Loch Shiel.
"A fresh breeze of north wind was blowing up
Loch Sunard. We went rattling along under a snoring breeze; passed
Mingarry Castle and Sthrone McLean, connected with which there is a sad
story. McLean was a famous freebooter when McIan was in possession of
Mingarry Castle. McIan's wife was fair and vain. McLean was handsome and
cunning. He, the enemy of her husband, won her affections. She agreed to
admit him to the castle upon a certain night to murder her husband, on
condition that he would marry her. McLean accordingly entered the castle
at night and murdered the old chief. McIan, however, left an only son, and
McLean insisted upon the woman putting to death the son, who alone seemed
to stand in the way of his subjecting the district to his own sway. The
woman agreed to this, and, accompanied by McLean, reached the wild
precipice to throw her child over into the ocean which foamed below. The
mother took the child in her arms. She twice swung it in the air to cast
it from her; but not doing so, she was asked by McLean why she delayed.
"'The child,' replied the unfortunate woman,
'smiles in my face whenever I attempt it.'
"'Turn then your face away and look not at its
smiles,' was the bandit's reply.
The woman did so, and the child was thrown
over the rock She had no sooner accomplished the deed than McLean turned
upon her and said—
"'Away, horrid woman! You who could thus murder your husband and child
might murder me!'
soon came in sight of Aharacle, which struck me very much as. being wild,
peculiar, and picturesque. Aharacle is at the end of Loch Shiel. It is a
flat, dark moss surrounded by hills, with a fine view of Rum in the
affords a curious instance of the singular crystallizing process which the
results of the Reformation have undergone, that Papists and Protestants
occupy nearly the same territory as they did then. All the Papists are, on
the north side, and the Protestants upon the south side of Loch Shiel. The
parish of Ardnamurchan, which in Papist times contained many parishes,
extended (until lately) as far north as Arisaig, about sixty miles as the
crow flies, with I daresay five hundred miles of sea-coast.
"We set off for Glen Finnan at four. We pulled
for two or three miles between low flat banks with low ranges of hills
near; but there was a grand view ahead, clusters of mountains, with dark
gullies, towards which we were steering in high hope. After sailing some
miles the lake seemed closed by a green point—intensely green when
contrasted with the dark, heathy, rocky mountains which now began to
gather round us and above us on every side. We soon discovered from the
ruins and crosses which caught our eye that this was Eilean Finnan, of
which we had heard so much. It is, indeed, a touching spot, fit place for
meditative thought. There are remains still on the Island of the old
religious establishments, but they are ruins only. Gravestones are
scattered around, chiefly, if not altogether, belonging to the Roman
Catholic families in the district. One was the grave of a bishop. Another
had a skeleton carved out on the stone. Another was a plain bit of wood
not a foot high. Rude stone crosses of slate and of modern workmanship
were placed here and there. Until a few months ago, when it was removed
for safety by the popish proprietor, a small bell remained from time
immemorial in a window in the ruins beside three skulls, one of them
belonging to a notorious character in the olden time, Ian Muideartach.
These skulls have been buried. One thing struck me much about the
churchyard, viz., that the rude spokes which had carried the different
coffins for the burial were deposited beside their respective graves, each
grave having a rude spoke on each side of it. In contemplating that green
island with its ruins, I could not restrain those feelings which prompted
me to offer up in my heart a tribute of praise to the forgotten
religionists who had here lived and died. They may have been in
comparative darkness, they may have erred from the truth—but some light
they had, and here they made it shine amidst the surrounding darkness of a
barbarous age. Some truth they had, and they gave it to others. This
island, with its buildings, its matin and vesper bells, its processions,
its prayers, its ceremonies, was a visible religion; it was a monument and
pledge of something beyond man, a link connecting another world with this
; and it must at least have kept before the minds of the barbarian clans
who prowled in the neighbouring mountains—gazing upon it from their
summits, or listening to its bell calling to early prayer—the truth that
there was a God, and reward and punishment beyond the grave, and that the
eye of One who hated sin gazed upon them. Popery with its symbols was a
pioneer to Protestantism. It was in some respects better calculated to
attract the attention of men in a rude and savage state. When man is a
child, he speaks as a child ; but he should now, in these days of light
and intelligence, put away childish things.
"After a pull of twenty-four miles we reached,
about ten o'clock, the head of the loch, and saw the tall monument rising
like a ghost in the darkness.
"The first thing which attracted my notice in
the morning was the monument erected to commemorate Prince Charlie
unfurling his standard to regain the throne of his ancestors. This
romantic enterprise was begun on this spot.
"And where now are all those fine fellows who,
full of enthusiasm and of hope, came streaming down these valleys and
covered those scattered rocks? Where those Highland chiefs, the last
monuments in Europe of the feudal times, who met here full of chivalry,
and of all the stirring thoughts connected with such a romantic and
hazardous enterprise 1 And the young Chevalier himself, with his dreams of
ambition and of kingly thrones never to be fulfilled? How strange that the
intrigues of a vicious Court should have disturbed the quiet of this
solitary glen, and that he, who was then all freshness and manliness,
should have changed Loch Shiel and its warriors for an opera and Italian
dissipation ! Charlie after all was never my darling. He had all the
kingly bearing, with all the low cunning and tyrannical spirit, of the
"We left the
head of Loch Shiel with a stiff breeze in our teeth. Having seen the
picturesque outline of the mountains—which were hanging over us so that
the eagle perched upon their summits might almost look into our boat—both
in the evening when their forms mingled with the dark shadow of the lake,
and their summits glowed with crimson and gold, and also at night when
their giant forms stood in close column, their stature reaching the sky on
every side of us, we were glad to see them now half robed in mist, and
bedewed with many a snowy rill. After a stiff pull we reached Aharacle
about two, and soon found ourselves again on the banks of Loch Sunard."
To John Mackintosh:—
"Loudoun Manse, October 8th, 1842.
"You are in a glorious country. There is, I
think, a finer combination and loveliness in the scenery of the Lakes than
in our West Highlands, with the exception of our majestic sea views; our
castled promontories, scattered islands, rapid tides, glimpses of
boundless horizons, and far-winding sea coasts are, I think, unrivalled
for sublimity. But there is a snugness, and what Carlyle calls a 'Peace
reposing in the bosom of strength,' in the lake scenery, which, with the
exception of some parts of the Tyrol, one sees nowhere else.
"Have you seen Wordsworth? He is a perfect Pan
of the woods, but a glorious creature. Such men elevate my views of the
Supreme Mind more than all the scenery of earth."
"What though we are but weary pilgrims here,
Trav'lers whose place of rest is not below;
Who must along the path of sorrow go;
For those we cherish and regard as dear
With weak hearts trembling betwixt hope and fear:
Yet, mourning brother, wherefore should we know
That rayless grief which broodeth o'er despair?
For still a lot most full of bliss is ours !—
Sweet commune with the good which are and were,
Virtue and love, high truth, exalted powers,
Converse with God in deep, confiding pray'r,
An ever-present Lord to seek and save,
The word which quickens more than vernal showers,
A Father's house beyond the hollow grave?"
To John Mackintosh, at Cambridge:
"Loudoun, December, 1842.
"I feel with you that our 'inner men' did not
commune sufficiently when you were here. There was more a rubbing of
surfaces than a melting together of two souls. It was only after you went
away that I began to grieve over undone work, and unsaid things, and half
said things. But when I have time, I will send you broken images of my
thoughts, that you can patch together—half crystallized opinions that will
enable you to guess the form which they are tending towards. There are
many points in theology upon which I somehow think you are destined, like
myself, to undergo a change, and about these I am very anxious to
communicate with you; such as the universality of the atonement, the
nature of saving faith, the doctrine of assurance, and the sacraments. I
have been reading, writing, meditating, preaching, and praying upon these
subjects, and I feel the necessity of having such clear definite ideas
upon them as will stand examination.
"I am busier than ever. I have been preaching
round the parish upon Thursday evenings. At all those meetings I collect
for religious purposes. Last Thursday I collected 31s. 6d. in a small
schoolroom! I have also— don't laugh—commenced a course of lectures on
geology for the Newmilns weavers! It will extend to about ten lectures.
"I have never engaged in any duty, for I call
it duty, which has given me such pleasure. You know that there has always
been a set of shrewd, well-read, philosophical readers here—vain, but
marvellously well informed, and half infidel—who were very civil when I
went to see them, but would never come to church. They were generally
Chartists, and talked very big about the 'priests' not wishing the people
to become well informed, and so on. Well, I hardly knew how to get to
windward of these men, but I knew they had formed themselves into a
'Philosophical Institution' and sometimea got men to lecture to them from
Kilmarnock. I hinted to one of them that I would willingly lecture. They
sent a deputation to request me to do so. I agreed. Subject, geology. I
have for the last ten years been fond of the science, and luckily I had
just finished a two months' course of reading on it, and had a large
collection of all the best books. Well, not to make my story long, up I
went to the village on the appointed night, expecting to find the members
of the Institution only assembled, but I found the school-house crammed
with one hundred and fifty people admitted by penny tickets, and about
fifty people outside ! You can have no idea, unless you knew the
excitability of our people, of the interest these lectures have created:
they speak of nothing else; old fellows stop and touch their hats and
thank me. When I finished my second, men who used to avoid me, gave me
three rounds of cheers ! and last Sabbath night I saw some of the
philosophers in church for the first time. They have got the dissenting
church for me to lecture in. I have got Buckland's map copied on a large
scale, and we begin a spring course, to not less, I am persuaded, than six
or seven hundred people! I think this is a practical lesson. Let a
minister use every means to come in contact with every class, to win them
first on common ground, and from thence endeavour to bring them to holy
ground. Only fancy a fossil fern from the coal, the solitary specimen in
the mineralogical cabinet of the institution, going the round of Newmilns
as an unheard-of curiosity! Poor souls ! if you knew how I do love the
"Dec. 30th.—The former part of this letter was written a week ago. It
proves to you what a slow coach I am. I wanted to have written to you
about our unfortunate Church, but the subject is too important to be dealt
with in a letter. I have seen nothing published upon this subject which so
completely expresses my own views as Morren of Greenock's letters to his
congregation. If I can get them in a complete form I will send them to
you. My principles may be shortly stated. The Church, as an independent
power in spiritual things, agrees in forming an alliance with the State to
act in reference (for example) to the induction of presentees into
parishes in one particular way, out of fifty other ways she might have
chosen, all being agreeable to the Word of God. This particular way is
embodied in an Act of Parliament—a civil act—and consequently implies an
obligation on the part of the two contracting parties, the Church and
State, to obey its enactments. Of this civil act the civil courts are
alone the constitutional interpreters, and we must either obey their
interpretation or walk out. I wish the law was modified, but I can live
under it. I believe there must be a large secession. No Government can
yield to their demands.
"Write to me soon. This is a wild night. It is
late. My communion is on the second Sabbath of January. Pray for me."
From his Journal;—
"I heard, the end of last week, that T——B——
and D——T—— were ill and dying. Neither of them sent for me, but I
determined, thank God, to see them. I felt a particularly strong desire to
do so. Here lot me record for my guidance a rule—Always when a fitting
opportunity arrives be sowing the seed. Read the Gospel in private, in
season and out of season, and God may bless it when least expected by you.
I went to see B. first, and found him dying. Most earnestly did I urge
upon him a free salvation, and the truth that God has good-will to man. I
then went to T's. He had been a cold, heartless man, a Chartist, and his
son was the only man in Newmilns (except his brother) who 'cut' me, and
who was very uncivil to me both in his father's presence and in his own
house. Indeed, I had to leave him on the ground of incivility. To this
man's house I felt I must go. But I went in prayer, leaving it to God, and
conscious that I went from a sense of duty. But oh how chastened was D.!
lamenting neglected opportunities, and serious and thoughtful about
salvation. His son entered at the end of my visit. D. shook hands with me,
and his son, mild and civil, thanked me cordially for my visit. Always do
duty trusting to God, who will make light arise out of darkness.
"Saturday Evening, 29th.—I was last week at
Kilninver burying dear old Dr. Campbell, [Father of the late John Macleod
Campbell, D.D. ] who died upon the 17th. My father is the best travelling
companion I know, so full of anecdote and traditionary tales."