Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed. Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.

Parish Life in the North of Scotland
Chapter XXII - Co-Presbyters and Fellow Labourers


1825-1827.

THE members of the Presbytery of Chanonry in 1825 were—Messrs. Roderick Mackenzie, James Smith, Alexander Wood, John Kennedy, Alexander Stewart, and myself. The "Father of the Presbytery" was Mr. Rod. Mackenzie, minister of Knockbain. Previous to his settlement in that parish, he had been minister of Contin, in the Presbytery of Dingwall. His immediate predecessor there was a weak, but well-meaning man — a Mr.MacLennan—and its successor was a Mr. Dallas, whom I recollect to have seen. Mr. Roderick succeeded, in the parish of Knockbain, a Mr. Robert Munro, noted for his loquacity and his pointed sarcasms. Some ludicrous anecdotes of him now rise to my recollection. On one occasion, for instance, he assisted in a neighbouring parish at the communion. One of his colleagues on the occasion was Mr. Joseph Munro, minister of Edderton, who loved to tease and play off his jokes on Mr. Robert. They slept in the same room, and Mr. Joseph, who, like Falstaff, delighted to take his "ease at his inn," and troubled himself little about the preparation of his sermons, got up early in the morning of the day on which he was to preach, and, laying hands on Mr. Robert's sermon which protruded out of his coat-pocket whilst he lay fast asleep, coolly took possession of it, and afterwards read it out to the congregation at the service in church, fir. Robert, the real author and owner of the sermon, being seated in front of him as his hearer. The text Mr. Joseph duly read out; "That's my text," said Mr. Robert. The preacher proceeded to open the subject; "That's my introduction," said Mr. Robert. The preacher went on to divide the subject into its various consecutive heads; "That's my arrangement," reiterated Mr. Robert. Mr. Joseph read the whole sermon through without missing a word. " Ah," said Mr. Robert, "that fellow has ploughed with my heifer right well, but I'll be avenged upon him."

Composing another sermon on the character of "Joseph," he pointed out the various excellencies which distinguished that patriarch, and then, looking his namesake of Edderton full in the face, exclaimed, "Oh, I wish every Joseph was like him." During Mr. Robert Munro's ministry, in 1762, the parish of Suddie and part of Killearnan were united to Kilmuir Wester, now called Knockbain. He died in 1790, in the 44th year of his ministry. Before his death he was fully aware that Mr. Roderick Mackenzie was to be his successor, not only from report, but by the frequent visits made by the latter both to himself during his declining years and to his heritors. On such occasions he used to say—"Poor Rory is in a great hurry to grasp the stipend of Kuockbain, but "—snapping with his mid-finger and thumb--" so long as I can do that, he daren't touch a plack of it."

After the most violent opposition on the part of the parishioners, Mr. Roderick Mackenzie was duly and legally settled minister of the parish. In regard to personal appearance, stature, and strength, few men in the five northern counties could compete with " Parson Rory," as lie was usually called. lie was upwards of six feet in height, with broad shoulders and massive, well-proportioned limbs. In his younger years be wore the Highland costume, and was universally allowed to have been one of the finest-looking Highlanders of his day. His features were bold and prominent, approaching to coarseness, and his eye had a twinkle in it strongly indicative of Highland cunning and sagacity. His character as a preacher and minister was much lowered by his leading spirit and habits as a man. The doctrines of the gospel he preached with Calvinistic purity, but in practice he coolly laid them all aside. As a faithful adherent to the Moderate party in the church, he hated the doctrines of divine influence, regeneration, and the exercise of spiritual life in the souls of believers. He seldom referred to these subjects, unless it were at communion seasons in order to make a sort of display before those who were considered " pious men." Owing to the universal influence of evangelical truth, and the high esteem in which faithful and evangelical ministers were held by both young and old in the north, neither Mr. Roderick nor any of his party had the courage openly to subvert the doctrines of the Confession of Faith which they had signed. But these doctrines were entirely blunted by the conduct and habits of their every-day life. In the courts of the church Mr. Itoderick's aim was to foster the growth of Moderatism; he protected and patronised young candidates for the ministry whose characters were unsuitable or exceptionable; by shifts, evasions, and the most dishonourable modes of procedure, he defended ministers charged with gross delinquencies, and scrupled not to stop, if possible, all bond fide enquiries into the truth of the charges brought against them. The very worst measures too which the -Moderate leaders in the General Assembly could devise, ever found in him an active and most unflinching advocate. Then his mind was wholly secularised. He was a first-rate shot and deer-stalker, the boon-companion and fellow-sportsman of all comers, English, Irish or Scotch. To do him justice, however, the only symptom of inebriety which he ever showed was to speak somewhat thick and to snivel through his nose. These were the days when drinking was more or less practised at every dinner-table. A notorious wine-bibber and glutton from England had on one occasion come on a shooting excursion to Belmaduthy House, the seat of Colin Mackenzie, Esqre. of Kilroy, one of Mr. Roderick's heritors. This fellow never ceased taunting Kilcoy and the Scotch for their very slender capacity and attainments in what he called the manly science of drinking. Kilcoy, who himself indulged freely in his after-dinner potations, was quite scandalised at this, but attempting to compete with this redoubtable wine-bibber, had more than once to succumb under the table. At last he told the Englishman that although he acknowledged his own defeat, he would introduce a gentleman to him next day at dinner for a trial of skill. Kilcoy then drove down to the manse, and stated his grievances to Parson Rory. "Well," said the parson, "it would not do to make it public, but if you get us a good dinner I think I'll try him." This was done accordingly. Mr. Roderick presented his huge corporation at the festive board, sitting right opposite the sportsman. After dinner, wine-glasses were placed before the sitters at the table. "Away with these trifles," said the Englishman, "and bring tumblers." The tumblers were brought. "Away with these silly tumblers," said the parson, "and place before this gentleman and me a cup and a bottle of port-wine for each of us." The order was obeyed. Parson Rory, decanting the bottle of port into the cup and raising it to his lips, said, "Sir, I pledge you," and then, at a single draught, emptied the contents into his stomach. The Englishman stared with astonishment, and declared himself fairly beaten. The parson felt none the worse for it.

Soon after his forced settlement at Knockbain, the majority of the people left his ministry. He never resented their conduct, however, but publicly prayed for them with much seeming earnestness on the Sabbath. He was very benevolent, and particularly attentive to the poor and destitute. His character was accurately described by a shrewd old innkeeper at Contin, who lived during the successive incumbencies of Messrs. MacLennan, Mackenzie, and Dallas. On being asked by a stranger what sort of a minister they had at Contin, Boniface replied that he had both seen and heard three of them in succession; "The first we had, sir, was a minister, but he was not a man—a Mr. MacLennan; the second, Mr. Rory, was a man, but no minister; but be whom we now have is neither a man nor a minister." Mr. Roderick's mental powers were above par. He had also a rich vein of sarcasm. At a dinner given after the funeral of Sir Hector Mackenzie of Gairloch, which was numerously attended by the gentry and clergy of Easter and Wester Ross. Mr. Roderick displayed no ordinary powers of sarcasm. General Mackenzie of Belville, brother of the deceased, proposed the health of the Ross-shire clergy, "a highly-respectable body of men," he said, "who had ever been on the most friendly footing with the proprietors of Ross-shire." The late excellent Mr. Neil Kennedy, minister of Logie, was present, and sat opposite Mr. Hugh Rose of Glastullich, one of his heritors, who shortly before then had had a bitter quarrel with Mr. Kennedy for having appointed the communion to take place in autumn. Mr. Rose called out, "With some exceptions," looking Mr. Kennedy full in the face. Mr. Roderick, as the oldest minister proceeded to reply. "I beg," he said, " to return thanks in my own name, and that of my brethren, to General Mackenzie for the honourable mention he has made of the Ross-shire clergy. The clergy and the lairds of Ross-shire were ever on good terms, and my wish is that they will continue to be so. I was surprised to hear exceptions taken to the General's favourable testimony of them, and still more so at the gentleman here present who thought fit to make the exception. His father was a worthy minister of the Church. He was a very good man. But let his surviving sons beware that the old proverb be not fulfilled in their case, that 'where the Deil canna get the goose, he'll try an' get the goslins."' This sally was followed by roars of laughter, and Rose felt himself so fairly beaten that he very soon afterwards rose and left. My father and Mr. Roderick had been school-fellows at Cromarty under the late eminent Mr. John Russel of Stirling, but they never met again until the day of my settlement at Resolis. Mr. Mackenzie was married to a sister of the late Mr. Charles Grant of Waternish, M.P., father of Lord Glenclg. The family consisted of several sons and daughters; the former all died abroad. One of his daughters married Mr. Edwards, a son of the first Sir George Munro's grieve, at Poyntzfield. He became Sberiff-Substitute of Inverness, and was afterwards promoted to a lucrative situation in one of the colonies. Mr. Mackenzie regularly attended our Presbytery meetings. I usually assisted him at his communions on Mondays in Gaelic. He died 4th July, 183, in the 59th year of his ministry.

Mr. James Smith was ordained minister of Avoch in 1787. He married Miss Houston, daughter of the Provost of Fortrose, two years after his settlement. He preached the gospel, but more as a theory, or subject of history, than as the message of salvation. He read his sermons, and in composing them was most anxious about the construction of his sentences and the accuracy of his style. As a pastor he was diligent and painstaking. He was low in stature, had a short neck, a large head, shaggy eyebrows, and a fearful squint. He was temperate in drinking, but his ravenous appetite for savoury meat was the means of shortening his life. Money-making was the ruling passion of his soul. He claimed a right to the churchyard, not only to the grass, which legally belonged to the clergy, but even to the rights of se( ul. ture. All the parishioners, if they opened a new grave, must pay him ten shillings sterling. This, however, was put a stop to in the following manner. A poor man had come to reside in the parish, who lost one of his family by death. A place in the churchyard was assigned him, and he proceeded to open the grave. Mr. Smith sallied out, and demanded ten shillings. The man replied that such a charge was neither according to law nor equity, and that never until then did he hear of such a demand. "It is the law here, however," replied the minister, "and you must submit to it before you open your grave." The poor fellow applied to the Fiscal, and stated all the particulars of the case, adding that the breach in his family had touched him sorely, but that such inhuman treatment was sorer than all. The Fiscal's indignation was roused. "Go," said he, "open your grave and bury your dead. If the parson attempts to prevent you, knock him down, and I will secure you against consequences." The man proceeded to obey; but he had no sooner entered upon his task than Mr. Smith endeavoured to resist. "Weel, sir," said the man, "before I pay your demand we must try and settle the account with our fists, so that either you knock me down or I you." Mr. Smith walked off, nor did he ever make a similar demand again. In money-making he was not a little helped and urged on, even contrary to his own better judgment, by his wife. The death of their only son James bore very hard upon both of them.

The people of Avoch under his ministry became, what the spiritually discerning would denominate, " strong believers," i.e., persons who never encountered any difficulty in the exercise of faith in Christ. In former times there had been a minister in Avoch whom the people revered, and whose ministry had produced the most salutary effects. The General Assembly wished to translate him to Inverness, as being a larger sphere of usefulness. He refused to go, so the matter was left for determination to the people. They agreed to part with him. On leaving them he predicted that many years would elapse ere they would have a gospel ministry again. Poor Mr. Smith, during his incumbency, was invaded by the Dissenters. An Independent Chapel was set up close to his church. He did not like it, and it must be confessed, he had reason to dislike it; for, if matters were bad before, this made them much worse. This new sect made the mere fact of becoming Independents the head-corner-stone of hope for futurity, and Mr. Smith had little or no energy with which to correct the error. He died of paralysis, his death having been hastened by the operation of bleeding, performed upon him with all good intentions, by a neighbour. It took place 9th Dec., 1830, in the 44th year of his ministry. At his funeral, as his coffin lay upon two chairs, just outside the manse door, Mr. Stewart of Cromarty remarked to me that "nothing brought home to his own mind more forcibly the solemnity and responsibility of death than did the death of a minister."

Mr. Robert Smith, Mr. Stewart's predecessor at Cromartv, had, in his younger days been tutor in the family of Don. MacLeod, Esq. of Geanies, Sheriff of the county. Through the influence of this gentleman he was presented to Cromarty, and ordained 21st May, 1789. He was a sound, scriptural preacher, and a laborious, conscientious minister. His mind, however, was very secular. During the latter years of his life he bad to contend with considerable opposition from his parishioners, which he sorely felt, lie died 20th March, 1824, in the 35th year of his ministry and 61st of his age.

Mr. Alex. Wood, of Rosemarkie, was the last representative of a clerical pedigree of three generations in direct lineal succession in the one parish. Reared up in ease and comparative affluence, experiencing no difficulties for this world from youth to hoar hairs but what might easily be removed, nor apprehending any evils, either temporally, spiritually or eternally, which might come upon him, he has continued to plod his easy way through life until, "fat and sleek and fair," he has reached the advanced age of threescore and ten. Not, indeed, that he had escaped the trials and grievances incident to " man of woman born " entirely; but he was naturally and largely endowed with that amount of stolidity and obtuseness of spirit as would almost bear with anything, however rousing and harassing to the ordinary feelings of humanity, and this always interposed to save him from that bitterness which, otherwise, he could not possibly but feel. He was rather nervous, moreover, arising solely from an excess of health and indolence, not to say over-indulgence in the luxuries of the table, so that his nervous fits, which otherwise might have passed off harmlessly enough, sometimes chose to associate themselves with some ugly symptoms of internal inflammation. Such symptoms usually manifested themselves on sacramental occasions, or when he had just commenced his annual visits for catechising. He, accordingly, made very dolorous statements to the Presbytery at their diets of "privy censure," just to save his head. Succeeding his father and grandfather, he entered upon his parochial duties very much in the same spirit as one would accept of the place and emoluments of some comfortable Government appointment, in virtue of which, however the duties might be performed, the income was secure. But it is needless to particularise any farther. Suffice it to say that he is now, at the age of 70, what I knew him to be at 37—the same in eating and drinking, in sleeping and waking, in stoutness of body and inertness of mind, and almost the same in ministerial energy and usefulness.

Of fir. John Kennedy of Kilearnan I have already written in connection with my settlement in Resolis. His• ministry was eminently acknowledged by his heavenly Master, and through grace he approved himself to be a faithful servant of the Lord Jesus. Mr. Alexander Stewart, who in 1824 succeeded Mr. Smith at Cromarty, I have also described.

The Church had since the days of Principal Robertson been divided into the two sections of Moderates and Evangelicals, and the majority of our body being of the former, Mr. Grant, who was himself a staunch supporter of the Moderate interest, had been annually elected an elder to the Assembly ever since my induction in 1822, as he had also been for many years before. This year, however, the Evangelical members combined to oust Mr. Grant from his protracted monopoly. On each side parties were equally balanced, but with this advantage to the Evangelicals, that one of their own number filled the moderator's chair. Mr. George Sinclair, eldest son and heir of Sir John Sinclair, Bart. of Ulbster, was the man upon whom their choice fell. This gentleman, born and brought up in the highest circles of society, had been a "lover of pleasure more than a lover of God." But "God's time of love" came. His heart was gained and given to the Lord, so that he became a vital, though not always a very consistent, Christian. As I had seen him in the days of his boyhood, though by no means intimately acquainted with him, I was deputed by my brethren to write to him, and to my communication he made the following' reply :-

"EDINBURGH, 21st Feb., 1825.

"My Dear Sir,—I had this day the honour to receive your kind intimation of the friendly sentiments and intentions cherished towards me by yourself and those esteemed members of your presbytery with whom you are of one accord and of one mind. I must candidly acknowledge that I should consider it it high privilege to be connected by so important a tie with Christian brethren whom I very highly respect, and I should endeavour to discharge the solemn duty entrusted to inc in such a manner as becomes the doctrines of Christ. I could indeed only undertake such an office in humble dependence on divine aid, for I feel the deep responsibility which attaches to it; and I should now accept it with touch greater diffidence than I should have done a few years ago when, as I now see, I was totally unfit for it. I then imagined that every one might aspire to such an appointment as a matter of course. I now perceive how arduous and honourable it is to hold any office connected with the Church of Christ, and that His strength alone can make our weakness perfect. I should be very sorry at the same time to create any dissension between yourselves and any of your brethren, and I should venture to recommend a very earnest recommendation of the conduct and sentiments of your former representative, though certainly if you have reason to conclude that his views do not accord with yours, and that my services would be more acceptable, I shall feel highly honoured by the appointment.

"In regard to the certificates, I must request that you will have the kindness to write to my friend the Rev. William Mackintosh, minister of Thurso, on the subject, upon whose favourable testimony I have every reason to rely.

"I had the pleasure lately to forward to Mr. Peel (Sir Robert) an application from the principal heritors of the parish of Reay on behalf of Mr. Finlay Cook, who, I hope, will he appointed assistant and successor at Reay.

"I remain, my dear sir, with that regard which those who trust solely in Jesus feel towards brethren, though personally unknown, who cherish the same hope and rejoice in the same end.—Very truly yours,

"GEORGE SINCLAIR."

With the Christian sentiments which Mr. Sinclair's letter so simply and forcibly expresses Messrs. Kennedy, Stewart, and I were much satisfied. I was accordingly directed to write Mr. Mackintosh of Thurso [Mr. William Mackintosh, a native of Inverness-shire, was ordained to the mission at Bruan and Berriedale in 1705, and translated from thence to Thurso 29th Aug.. 1805. He was much esteemed as an eloquent preacher, an able expounder of the Word of tied, and a vivid but faithful delineator of the Christian's spiritual experiences. He died whilst or, a visit to Strathpeffer mineral springs on the 18th July, 1830, in the 67th year of his age and 35th of his ministry. His body was interred at Cullicudden in Resolis.—Ed.] for his certificates, which I did on the 20th Feby., and to which, enclosing the certificates, he replied on March 4th. Mr. Mackintosh expresses the pleasure he " felt on hearing that we are likely to have Mr. Sinclair as our ruling elder; that he is a man of uncommon talent, piety, and benevolence; that during his residence at Thurso he visited the sick and the poor, to pour consolation into the heart of the former, and to supply the wants of the latter; that his beneficence was not confined to the parish, but that, in addition to all this, he has often been known to carry supplies in his carriage to other parishes in the county; that he now lives in Edinburgh, and though on a limited income, gives 36 bolls of meal to the poor of Thurso yearly, besides money and coals, and that thus, in all probability, the blessing of the widow, the orphan, and `of him that is ready to perish' shall light on his head." The day on which our Commissioners for the General Assembly were to be elected arrived, when Mr. Sinclair was returned. [Sir George Sinclair, Bart. of Ulbster, was born at Edinburgh 29th Aug., 1790, and 'educated at Harrow and Gottingen. Travelling through Prussia when a student, he was taken prisoner as a spy by the French and examined by Napoleon the Great, but soon afterwards liberated. He became M.P. for Caithness in the 20th year of his age, and associated with the great and notable of his time. In 1816 he married Lady Camilla, daughter of Sir William Manners, and sister of the Earl of Dysart, who inherited the title from his grandmother. Endowed with extraordinary p>wers of memory, Sir George was an accomplished scholar, and, like his gifted father, a voluminous writer of books, pamphlets, and letters. In 1843, although an ecclesiastical non-intrusionist, he remained in the Establishment, but ultimately joined the Free Church of Scotland. He died in Edinburgh 23rd Oct., 1863, from whence his remains were conveyed to Thurso and laid beside those of Lady Camilla in Harrold's Tower.—Ed.]

In the month of March of this year (1825) 1 received an intimation of the death of Hugh Houston of Creich. He died at an advanced age on the 19th of that month in his son-in-law's house at Kintradwell. His name was associated with my earliest years. Long before I was born lie had been a prosperous merchant at Brora. From small beginnings he rose, and made steady progress towards being one of the richest men in the county. During his mercantile life he dealt in every sort of thing that could possibly be bought or sold—clothes of every texture, groceries of all descriptions, leather and hardware. But he had also a foreign trade. In those days contraband traders frequented the Sutherland coast. Foreign smuggling vessels landed their goods at every creek and harbour at which they knew they would find purchasers. Hugh Houston at Brora dealt largely, after the fashion of the times, in these contraband wares. The revenue officers, or "gaugers," as they were called, were ever on the watch to make seizures, and were warranted to search private dwellings and warehouses for that purpose. I recollect to have heard lair. Houston himself, when dining at the table of the late Mr. Walter Ross of Clyne, his parish minister, give a minute account of a narrow escape he had made many years before from a party of revenue officers who were informed of his being in the receipt of a large quantity of smuggled spirits, and were on their way to seize it. The means of rescue, he said, came from Mr. Ross, who, on hearing of his perplexity, set himself to collect all the small carts and broad-shouldered men in the vicinity, appointing them to meet at the dead hour of night at his friend's shop door, to convey Air. Houston's cargo of gin and brandy to the church of Clyne, and deposit them under the east gallery. This was done accordingly, and the revenue officers coming next day in full force found nothing to be seized. Winding up his business at Brora, Mr. Houston leased the farm of Clyneleish, in the neighbourhood of the manse of Clyne; it was occupied previously by Captain Sutherland. He then became major in the Sutherland militia, and afterwards purchased the property of Creich from W. Creich, bookseller in Edinburgh, which last purchased it from the family of Gray.

My excellent and affectionate friend, Mr. Barclay of Auldearn, wrote me a letter on the 25th of March to remind me of my promise to preach to the children of his parishioners on Wednesday night, the 6th of April ensuing. There was also more work cut out for me. His people, he said, would be expecting a lecture on the evening of that day, according to use when a stranger engaged in such a duty. He then earnestly enforces the duty prescribed, from the consideration that many of his stated hearers expressed the wish that I should do so, but above all that many of them are hungering after the broad of life, and if their desire should not be complied with it would be a cause of regret. I complied with my dear friend's request, and did not repent of it.

I had received from Mr. Stewart of Cromarty a letter, dated the 30th of March, about Dr. Chalmer's "favourite" overture, as he calls it, " regarding the course of study to be pursued by students of divinity." In the concluding paragraphs of his letter he mentions two things I was unable satisfactorily to explain. "It has just occurred to me also," he writes, "that it would he well you attended this rummaging committee of which you are a member. You might chance to obtain light on two or three things which might be of use as to the order in which moderators were chosen. You have only to notice who were chosen at each synod meeting in times by-gone. We must take care, or this moderatorship will be a complete declaration of war." What Mr. Stewart meant by a "rummaging committee" was a committee of enquiry appointed to ascertain the order in which the moderators of the Synod of Ross were chosen. He attached very considerable importance to the matter, remarking, "we must take care, or this moderatorship will be a complete declaration of war." Now I was moderator-elect of the Synod of 1825, my election having been unanimous and without discussion. In the concluding sentence of his letter he remarked that "some symptoms were appearing at Cromarty which he did not much like." "I should like,' he added, "had we time, to have a serious confabulation with you."

He wrote me on the 4th of April asking me to meet with him on Wednesday, the 13th of that month, at Daviston, between 12 and I o'clock to examine Mr. Daniel Bremner's school there, as this was a necessary pre-requisite for the drawing of the teacher's salary. I went accordingly, and the scholars were examined in the usual way. The school was on the foundation of the Christian Knowledge Society, an educational Institute distinguished in accordance with its object, not so much for the literary attainments and qualifications of its teachers, as for their unostentatious, but decided, personal piety. Daniel Bremner was one of those godly, though comparatively illiterate men. He had, however, as much knowledge as fitted him for giving to the children of the peasantry a course of elementry instruction as efficient as they had any occasion for. Daniel Bremner brought the energies of a spiritually enlightened mind to bear on the religious instruction of his pupils. At the commencement of my ministry we held monthly meetings for Christian conference, which continue to he held still. At these meetings Mr. Bremner, though residing in the parish of Cromarty, was a regular attendant, and was accompanied always by a John Clark, a kindred spirit with himself; his twin brother, if I may so speak, in Christ. Though John excelled Daniel in the clearness of his views, yet he was inferior to him in solidity of judgment. When John Clark spoke to the question, we noticed many brilliancies and strikingly apposite remarks, but accompanied with many flights of fancy and applications of Scripture more specious than solid. But when Daniel Bremner spoke our attention was rivetted. To the deep exercises of his mind he added a logical and consecutive method of expressing them, and the language he employed was simple and natural. He was therefore, of all who spoke, listened to with the deepest attention, and such who spoke after him followed chiefly in the line of those views which he had so forcibly expounded.

On the 16th April I had a friendly letter from my cousin, Mrs. Matheson of Attadale, dated from Kildary, parish of Kilmuir, her mother's residence at the time. Mrs. ,Matheson was then a widow residing at Inverness with very limited means. In 1815 Mr. Matheson had got involved in many unfortunate speculations. His fattier left him an estate yielding a rental of a least £600 per annum, and a considerable sum of money besides. But entering into one losing adventure after another, the result was at last hopeless bankruptcy. The property, together with all his other effects, was sold to pay his debts and to defray law-expenses. He resided with his family at Inverness, and afterwards went to Canada, where he was employed in land-surveying, in which also he was unsuccessful. After his death his widow was supported by his friends. His eldest son joined a wealthy firm in Canton, at the head of which was his maternal uncle James, second son of Capt. Donald Matheson of Shieess, who, after nearly twenty years' sojourn there as an opium merchant, returned to his native country with half a million. He purchased first the property of Achany, then the island of Lewis, and afterwards the estates of Gnids, Rosehall, and Ullapool, in the counties of Sutherland and Ross. He was returned member of Parliament, first for an English borough, and afterwards for Ross-shire. His nephew Alexander, his chief partner whilst there, and head of the firm in Canton after his departure, soon followed his uncle to this country. Possessed of nearly a million sterling, he purchased large estates in Ross-shire, and he is, in point of extent of territory and valuation, the third proprietor in the county, his uncle (now Sir James Matheson, Bart. of the Lews, M.P.) being the first. Alexander Matheson's mother, and the sister of Sir James, in virtue of all these changes, was raised at once from poverty to affluence. Her son, on his arrival in Scotland, made his mother the object of his dutiful regards. Having purchased a villa in the neighbourhood of Inverness, he presented it to her, furnishing her at the same time with everything which wealth could procure to make her comfortable and independent.

I return to Mrs. Matheson's letter of the 16th of April. Having left Inverness by the coach, she came to Kildary with the intention of calling upon me by the way. But she came by the coach on the opposite side of the Cromarty firth, so could not accomplish her object. "But," she adds, "I was proposing to myself the pleasure of seeing you on Monday next (the 18th), and proceeding from your house to Inverness on the Tuesday following, until I learned on my coming here that you were to he at Tain on that day attending the Synod. Will you therefore have the goodness to say when you intend returning home, and when it may be convenient for you to send me across the hill? My mother desires me to say that, if convenient, she would be most happy that you would breakfast with us on Tuesday on your way to Tain, in which event we can arrange when I am to leave." This arrangement, in all its friendly particulars, was carried into effect, and I distinctly recollect driving her over the hill to Kessock ferry.

The Synod of Ross met at Tain on Tuesday, the 19th of April, 1825. I was elected moderator, as one of the youngest members of the Court. The Synod sermon was preached by --Mr. David Carment of Rosskeen, the retiring moderator. His discourse was highly characteristic of the man. It was made up of cursory and passing sketches of Scripture doctrine, of anecdotes, and of hard hits against all who did not fall in with his views and notions, and all this, accompanied with nods and emphatic movements of his head, to give force and point to his application.

On the 29th of April I was favoured with a letter from my truly Christian friend and brother-in-law Mr. }'inlay Cook at Dirlot, in Caithness, where at this time he resided and acted with fidelity and vigour within the hounds of that wide and mountainous district which the Lord had appointed for him as the sphere of his labours. His son Alexander, who still lives, was then an infant, and shortly before had been "sick well nigh unto death." Mr. Mackay Gordon, who had attended my dear and venerable father during his last illness, was the physician in attendance there also. The fever from which the child suffered seemed to take a decided turn towards a fatal and immediate termination. The mother looked at the doctor, who could only reply by shaking his head and bursting into tears. It was then, however, that my excellent sister's Christian fortitude shone forth in its own dignity and strength. She had already been committing her now only-surviving child to that covenant God to whom, after many a hard struggle, she had been enabled readily to give up her other two babes whom, in His inscrutable wisdom, He had already been pleased to take to Himself. Instead of indulging therefore in useless wailings, she placed the child, until then lying on her knee, on the bed, sat down beside him, and without suffering a sigh to escape from her lips, or a tear to drop from her eyes, she waited in mute but humble submission for the final determination of the sovereign will of God. Mr. Cook himself was not present. He was in his closet at the time and on his knees, but soon entering the room he enquired for their sick son. "Hush," said his wife, "disturb not his last hour on earth." The devout but afflicted father said nothing, but acting on some grounds of encouragement he had got in prayer in reference to the use of means, he stepped softly to the table, took a tea-spoonful of sherry wine from a small glass, and gave it to his apparently dying infant. From that moment the child recovered. He has already attained to manhood, and has been working in the sphere of labour appointed for him in the Church of Christ. [Mr. Alexander Cook was a man of scholarly attainments, varied culture, and saintly disposition. He became minister of the Free Church congregation of Stratherrick, Inverness-shire, but was always in delicate health, and died at Inverness in 1862, aged 37 years.—Ed.] In his letter Mr. Cook relates all this in his own simple way, and ascribes all the praise to Him who " bringeth down to the grave, and raiseth up again."

Mrs. Cook was my eldest sister. From that solemn moment of her life in which she was made to feel the first saving impressions of Divine truth upon her heart, even to her dying hour, she "grew in grace," and abounded in all the genuine fruits of it. Her husband was of a kindred spirit with herself; no two individuals, in the divinely-sanctioned relationship in which they stood to one another, could be helps more meet for each other than they were. In their low, thatched cottage and solitary abode at Dirlot I was frequently an eye-witness of their beautiful conjugal unity and harmony. They were constitutionally hot-tempered, but not one hasty word was ever, by any accident, even once exchanged between them. In their views, tempers, and dispositions they seemed to tread the same path, "to walk by the same rule and to mind the same things." As the devoted followers of the Lamb, whithersoever He in His wisdom thought fit to lead them through the ever changing incidents of time, they were ever humbly tracing His footsteps as set before them in the Divine record—in the secret exercises of their souls—in their fellowship with God and with each other—in the unwearied and conscientious discharge of every Christian duty—in the exercise of brotherly love to all who bore the image and breathed the spirit of the Lord Jesus—and in all the ordinary occurrences of life.

As a preacher of the gospel Mr. Finlay Cook might truly be regarded as an "able minister of the New Testament." To native talent, or high grasp of intellect, or literary attainments, or powers of oratory, he had not even the slightest pretensions. He was obviously the simple, unadorned "earthen vessel" in which, for the fuller "manifestation of the excellency of the Divine power," the treasure was deposited. When he preached, the first thing exhibited to men was the earthen vessel in all its ungainly rudeness of form. In delivering the first few introductory sentences of his discourse his auditors felt for him. It appeared to be little else than a bald, uninteresting statement of gospel truisms, every one of which not only exhausted itself, but presented an insurmountable obstacle to all further prosecution of the subject. He went on, however, in that strength which was very soon to show that it was " made perfect in weakness," and, whilst thug groping his way, he seemed to be utterly indifferent to the disgust or the approbation of his audience. At last, however, he fully entered into and warmed on his subject, and then, indeed, "the tongue of the stammerer was unloosed"—his lips were opened, his words were uttered freely, fluently, and without hesitation or repetition. He was borne onward, not by anything in himself, but exclusively by his subject. his hearers at once participated in the heavenly influence. Their minds were both roused and arrested; every eye was directed to him, whilst the deep anxiety depicted on their countenances betokened the entrance of his words, as "words of fire" into their very inmost souls. Their former but ill-concealed apathy disappeared, and was followed by an almost breathless attention. It might truly be said that, "they who came to scoff remained to pray." Nor was it only during these more elevated frames of the preacher's mind that the "arrows of the Almighty" pierced the sinner's heart, or that the doctrine of God's holy word, proclaimed by his lips, descended like the " dew of Hermon" on the souls of humble and anxions enquirers. But as often did "the still small voice" penetrate the soul of the hearer, while he who ministered the truth felt himself sorely straitened, and was preaching with so rnnch doubt and hesitation as to render it often questionable to himself, at least, whether the words he was uttering were intelligible to any one or not. I have had opportunities of knowing some individuals who ascribed the first impressions of Divine truth on their minds to sermons preached by Mr. Cook when in such lowly and self-mortifying moods of mind.

By the providence of God fir. Cook was led to accept, in 1829, of a call to Cross, in the island of Lewis. In 1833 he became minister of the East Church, Inverness, and in 1835 of Reay, [Mr. Finlay Cook died at Thurso 12th June, 1858, in his 80th year and the 41st of his ministry, "Unable latterly to go to church without crutches, and help from some one, it was delightful to see him sitting in the pulpit, and with the whole energy of his soul declaring 'the unsearchable riches of Christ' to his fellow-men." (Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanac.)—Ed.] as successor to Mr. David Mackay who, for a long time previous, had been aged and infirm. On the 12th of October of the year of his settlement in Lewis he addressed to me an interesting letter, describing the feelings of a faithful minister of Christ when suddenly removed from the society of a religious people, snch as the majority of those were whom be had left, to the midst of a population rude in manners, filthy in habits, and lying under the thickest folds of moral and spiritual darkness. The people of the Hebrides were utterly unacquainted with the ordinary means of religious instruction. Their public teachers were both idle and inefficient. The ministers of Barvas and Stornoway were models of Moderatism in their day, but they were the "ruins grey" of what their system was in past ages. My friend Mr. Cook, however, found among the people generally a willingness to be taught the things of God, which they knew not before. One poor man had to testify that be never either witnessed or beard of a diet of catechetical instruction, and another that five of his children had been baptised, but that not one question was ever asked of him by the "reverend" incumbent concerning his own salvation or that of any of his children. The sacraments were administered, but in a stupified manner, and the usual services were curtailed or mutilated. Tents for the sale of intoxicating drinks were erected on the communion Mondays, and from them proceeded all the riot and drunkenness of a Highland country fair, commencing almost immediately after the benediction was pronounced at the thanksgiving-day service in the open air. [Such scenes were not unfrequent throughout Scotland in those earlier times. They have been described with realistic force by Robert Burns in "The Holy Fair."]

Mr. Cook's firm but humble and unassuming services, though despised by the God-disowning multitude, and covertly opposed by his faithless fellow-ministers, were to a large extent acknowledged from on High. Not only at Ness, but throughout the whole island of Lewis, a strong religious light broke out, while the savour of Divine things was, by the purity of gospel preaching, universally diffused throughout the moral wilderness of the Hebrides. Even until now the fruits remain. In that land God is well-known; the gospel is not only understood, but ardently sought after, and now, long after the venerable and faithful pastor, who first sowed the seed, has left the Lewis and the world, "this man and that man" there, as in Sion, may be seen whose names are written in the book of life. I may mention, in passing, though Mr. Cook was not permitted to see it, that about twelve years ago, a great and plenteous rain of spiritual blessing was showered down from on High, with which it pleased God to visit his heritage in these distant isles, so that it has become one of the most enlightened parts of Christian Scotland.

About this time I had an affectionate letter from Mr. Alexander MacLeod, minister of Uig, Island of Lewis, and formerly of the Gaelic Chapel, Cromarty. He states that both he and Mrs. Macleod were in the enjoyment of health and of all other comforts fully up to their expectations in that distant country. He misses much, however, the sweet converse of Christian friends; "nothing less," he says, "than special communion with the Head of all Divine influences, and the joy of seeing the work of the Lord prospering around us can possibly make it up to us." He affirms that "appearances throughout the island furnish very cheering evidences that there is plainly a revival, exhibiting itself under the preaching of the gospel in religious impressions, in a general thirst after instruction, and in a marked and almost incredible change in the morals of the people." He justly observes that there is a danger of underrating revivals on the one hand, and of exaggerating them on the other, and he feels considerable delicacy in saying anything with confidence, lest he should speak prematurely or inaccurately. lie earnestly invites me to come over and witness for myself the heart-cheering prospects of that benighted land, now gladdened with the beams of the "Sun of Righteousness," and rendered fruitful unto God. Mr. Macleod concludes his letter by asking, "Who got the chapel at Cromarty?" The answer to this qnestion could not be glad tidings to him. It was given to a death-dealing Moderate, while Mr. Finlay Cook, then of Dirlot, the choice of all the serious people there, was rejected.

Mr. David Campbell, minister of Glenlyon, Perthshire, became in 1836 Mr. Finley Cook's immediate successor at Inverness. On the death of Mr. William Forbes, he was presented to the parish of Tarbat. Mr. Archibald Cook, missionary-minister at Berriedale and Bruan, was proposed as his brother's successor in the Chapel of Ease. But that congregation, so united and harmonious under the ministry of Mr. Finley, divided on Mr. Archibald being norninated. The majority voted for Mr. David Campbell, and the minority, rather than be without the minister of their choice, formed themselves into a separate congregation, built the present North Church, and gave Mr. Archibald Cook a unanimous call, which he accepted. lie had not been many years there, however, when he accepted a call to Daviot and Moy, where he still lives. [Mr. Archibald Cook was ordained to the Bruan mission 15th .Jan., 1423; admitted minister of the North Church, Inverness, 31st Aug.. 1837; and translated to the Free Church, Daviot, in 1841; he died 6th May, 1865, in the 75th year of his age and 43rd of his ministry.—Ed.]

Mr. Archibald Cook became in early life a subject of divine grace. He has continued ever since to be a growing and deeply-exercised Christian. When his views were first directed to the ministry he at once recognised that a decidedly Christian character was necessary for the proper discharge of the duties of that sacred office, and should be inseparably connected with it. He did not wish to be one of those who "run without being sent," and he laboured to realise in his own soul the influence and saving impressions of that gospel which he now felt himself called of God to preach to his fellow-sinners. In the discharge of this all-important function, his mind has ever been awake to the great end of the ministry, warning the careless and impenitent, unmasking the delusions of the hypocrite, entering minutely into all the perplexities of mind which so often harahs the true but trembling believer in the Divine Word; and in addition to all this be earnestly and prayerfully watches the "lights and shadows" of the spiritual firmament. He diligently sows the seed of the word in the part of the great world." field" given him to labour; and for the fulfilment of the promise that "the Spirit shall be poured upon us from on high," and " the wilderness shall become a fruitful field," none among a thousand in his day looks more earnestly, longs more ardently, or prays more frequently than does Archibald Cook. And yet, with all these brilliant features of Christian and ministerial character, no man was ever afflicted with a larger measure of human frailities and failings than is this otherwise truly excellent preacher. Though lie is without doubt a devout and pious man, who has made great progress in the Christian life, yet, owing to the very limited range of his intellectual abilities, there has been gradually superinduced on his mind a large amount of spiritual pride, which greatly interferes with his usefulness. He deprives himself thereby of much spiritual enjoyment in intercourse with most of the really pious men and truly Christian ministers among his contemporaries. If any one departs a hair's-breadth from his own precise view of Scriptural doctrine or religious experience, he stands in doubt of him; nay, though he may never have held any intercourse with such a one, if he has but heard of him, lie feels warranted to place him, without a moment's hesitation, in the category of those who "have a name to live. but are dead." His literary attainments are not high; his Gaelic is bad, his English worse. He rigidly adheres to the dialect of his native district, the Isle of Arran, one of the worst dialects in Scotland. His attempts to preach in the English language, both in regard to pronunciation and grammatical construction, are provocative of the ridicule of thoughtless men in the audience. He had of course attended school, and passed through the usual curriculum at college. Yet, in spite of these failings—merely human after all—I question if there be any of the age in which we live who, in pure disinterested zeal, in holy abstractedness from the world, in vital godliness, or in exclusive devotedness to the external interests of the kingdom of heaven, more nearly approximates to the divinely-trained disciples of Galilee than does Archibald Cook.


Return to Book Index Page