THE Rev. Gavin McBean was a grave,
solemn old man, who inspired awe rather than affection. He was brought up
in the old Covenanting school, was most unbending, and maintained, during
the forty years that he preached in the Ninth Concession kirk, a dignity
and reserve which held the people at arms length. He was, however, a man
of education and refinement, and, as Muckle Peter stoutly maintained
against all critics, "a man o Goad, deeply versed in th Scruptures, an
a powerful releegious controversalist."
The word "plate" is quoted, because
the vehicle actually employed to "gether the coppers" was a black velvet
bag about eight inches deep with a tassel at the bottom and was attached
to a long stick. When this was passed along the pews, any member of the
congregation could make as big a chink by dropping in a copper or even a
button, as he could with a York shilling.
I have known the McNabb boys take to
the barn when they saw the minister coming down the Concession on his
annual round. It was all their mother could do to get them to come into
the house, have their faces washed and a fresh clean smock hurriedly
placed on their backs by the time the good man arrived.
Then the widow, all bustle and
excitement (for the ministers annual visit was an important event to the
settlers), would stand the children in a row and question them on the
"Now, Jamie lad," she would say,
"tell me what is the chief end of man. The minister will be here in a
moment, and I would be fashed to have him think that your spiritual
training was neglected." Jamie gave the answer that is familiar to every
"How many persons are there in the
Godhead?" the widow next asked, of Willie. Willie was able to give the
correct answer promptly.
"What is justification?" was the
question asked of Lizzie. And when it was answered, the anxious mother
asked a few other questions taken at random from the catechism, and by the
time the answers were given, there was a knock at the front door, which
Mrs. McNabb hurried to open, and the minister was ushered into the "front
room." After a formal greeting, and a careful scrutiny of the room and its
contents, he promptly proceeded to business.
"I hope, Mistress McNabb, that you
are training up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord."
Mrs. McNabb remained silent. It was,
however, a very common practice among the settlers to remain silent and
let the minister do all the talking. The practice led him ultimately not
to expect any answer. Sometimes, to reply would seem to border on
"Bring in your children," said the
minister. "I should like to examine them on the Shorter Catechism and see
if their minds are stored with religious truth."
The family filed into the room at
the widows command, and took their stand with backs to the wall, facing
the minister. Then the latter, drawing his little book from his side
pocket, questioned the boys and girls closely on the catechism and the Ten
Commandments, asked a few questions relating to the history of the Old
Testament celebrities, and concluded by suggesting to the widow that it
would be an excellent plan, and one which would keep the children out of
mischief, if she would set each of them the task of reading ten chapters
from the New Testament every Sunday.
"I would also suggest," he added,
"that instead of visiting them with corporal punishment for any breach of
discipline or domestic offence, you should assign them some such task as
the reading of one of the four gospels, John preferred."