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Reminiscences of Scottish Life & Character
Conclusion


I AM very anxious to bear in mind throughout these Reminiscences, and to keep in view the same feeling for my readers, viz., that such details regarding the changes which many living have themselves noticed as taking place in our customs and habits of society in Scotland, should always suggest the question to the thoughtful and serious mind, Are the changes which have been observed for good? Is the world a better world than that which we can remember? On some important points changes have been noticed in the upper classes of Scottish society, which unquestionably are improvements. For example, the greater attention paid to observance of Sunday, and to attendance upon public worship—the partial disappearance of profane swearing and of excess in drinking. But then the painful questions arise, Are such beneficial changes general through the whole body of our countrymen? May not the vices and follies of one grade of society have found a refuge in those that are of a lower class? May not new faults have taken their place where older faults have been abandoned? Of this we are quite sure—no lover of his country can fail to entertain the anxious wish, that the change we noticed in regard to drinking and swearing were universal, and that we had some evidence of its being extended through all classes of society. We ought certainly to feel grateful when we reflect that, in many instances which we have noticed, the ways and customs of society are much improved in common sense, in decency, in delicacy, and refinement. There are certain modes of life, certain expressions, eccentricity of conduct, coarseness of speech, books, and plays; which were in vogue amongst us, even fifty or sixty years ago, which would not be tolerated in society at the present time. We cannot illustrate this in a more satisfactory manner than by reference to the acknowledgment of a very interesting and charming old lady, who died so lately as 1823. In 1821, Mrs Keith of Ravelston, grandaunt of Sir Walter Scott, thus writes in returning to him the work of a female novelist which she had borrowed from him out of curiosity, and to remind her of "auld lang syne":—"Is it not a very odd thing that I, an old woman of eighty and upwards, sitting alone, feel myself ashamed to read a book which, sixty years ago, I have heard read aloud for the amusement of large circles, consisting of the first and most creditable society in London?" There can be no doubt that at the time referred to by Mrs Keith, Tristram Shandy, [Sterne, in one of his letters, describes his reading Tristram Shandy to his wife and daughter—his daughter copying from his dictation, and Mrs Sterne sitting by and listening whilst she worked. In the life of Sterne, it is recorded that he used to carry about in his pocket a volume of this same work, and read it aloud when he went into company. Admirable reading for the church dignitary, the prebendary of York! How well adapted to the hours of social intercourse with friends! How fitted for domestic seclusion with his family!] Tom Jones, Humphrey Clinker, etc., were on the drawing-room tables of ladies whose grandmothers or great-grandchildren never saw them, or would not acknowledge it if they had seen them. But authors not inferior to Sterne, Fielding, or Smollett, are now popular, who, with Charles Dickens, can describe scenes of human life with as much force and humour, and yet in whose pages nothing will be found which need offend the taste of the most refined, or shock the feelings of the most pure. This is a change where there is also great improvement. It indicates not merely a better moral perception in authors themselves, but it is itself a homage to the improved spirit of the age. We will hope that, with an improved exterior, there is improvement in society within. If the feelings shrink from what is coarse in expression, we may hope that vice has, in some sort, lost attraction. At any rate, from what we discern around us. we hope favourably for the general improvement of mankind, and of our own beloved country in particular. If Scotland, in parting with her rich and racy dialect, her odd and eccentric characters, is to lose something in quaint humour and good stories, we will hope she may grow and strengthen in better things—good as those are which she loses. However this may be, I feel quite assured that the examples which I have now given, of Scottish expressions, Scottish modes and habits of life, and Scottish anecdotes, which belong in a great measure to the past, and yet which are remembered as having a place in the present century, must carry conviction that great changes have taken place in the Scottish social circle. There were some things belonging to our country which we must all have desired should be changed. There were others which we could only see changed with regret and sorrow. The hardy and simple habits of Scotsmen of many past generations; their industry, economy, and integrity, which made them take so high a place in the estimation and the confidence of the people amongst whom they dwelt in all countries of the world; the intelligence and superior education of her mechanics and her peasantry, combined with a strict moral and religious demeanour, fully justified the praise of Burns when he described the humble though sublime piety of the" Cottar’s Saturday Night," and we can well appreciate the testimony which he bore to the hallowed power and sacred influences of the devotional exercises of his boyhood’s home, when he penned the immortal words:—

"From scenes like these old Scotia’s grandeur springs,
That makes her loved at home, revered abroad."

On comparing Scotland past with Scotland present, we cannot evade the question: Are "scenes like these"—devotional domestic scenes like these—become less frequent than they were? Do they still hold their place by the cottar’s fireside, or are they becoming only a reminiscence of what was once a national distinction? Whatever be our religious opinions, or whatever be our view*’ on questions of ecclesiastical polity and church order, no Scotsman who desires the happiness and honour of his country could avoid a deep regret at the very idea of Burns’ "Cottar’s Saturday Night" having become a thing of the past; and yet we must not shrink from inquiry into the true state of the case. I have asked the opinions of friends both of the Established and the Free Church, who have met my inquiries in a fair and candid spirit, and, from the answers I have received, have come to something like the following conclusion:—I believe such scenes as Burns’ "Cottar’s Saturday Night" are still to be met with in all their freshness and all their fervour in the dwellings of a good religious peasantry; but in some places the cottar population itself has undergone a great change. Two causes have combined to produce this effect:—An extensive system of emigration has thinned the older families of the soil, whilst the practice of bringing in mere labourers in many districts has made the old family domestic firesides less numerous. Then, alas! alas! we fear cottar MORALITY has not been such as to keep up the practice. Reports made to both the General Assemblies of 1871 on this question were far from being satisfactory. Dr Begg, too, in his striking and able pamphlet on the "Ecclesiastical and Social Evils of Scotland," refers to "symptoms of a nation’s degeneracy which seem multiplying in Scotland"; also to a "growing amount of heathenism and drunkenness."

With such representations before us regarding a decline of domestic morality, we cannot expect to see much increase of domestic piety. Bums, after he had become lowered in moral feelings by those licentious habits and scenes into which he unfortunately fell after he had left his father’s house, was not hypocrite enough to profess the same love and interest for the scenes of his innocent and early days. The country clergy of Scotland have their many difficulties against which they are to contend; and many obstacles which they have to meet. But let not the domestic piety of the lowest cottages of the land be lost sight of. The results of such worship are so blessed upon the inmates, that the practice should everywhere be urged upon their flocks by the clergy, and encouraged by all means in their power; and in that view it would, I think, be desirable to circulate short forms of prayer for family use. Many such have lately been published; and, whatever difference of opinion may be entertained as to the comparative merits of extempore or liturgical prayer for the public worship of the church, there can be no question that in many instances a form must be very useful, and often essential at the commencement, at least, of cottage worship: I have known cases where it has been declined on the plea of inability to conduct the service.

There are numerous indications that, on the whole, a regard for religion and religious ordinances is not losing ground in Scotland. The great number of churches—and of handsome churches—that are springing up, indicate, by their attendance, how much hold the subject has upon the people. The ample funds raised for charitable and for missionary objects give good testimony in the cause; and, in regard to the immediate question before us, one favourable result may be reported on this subject—the practice and feelings of domestic piety and family worship have, at any rate, extended in Scotland in an upward direction of its social life. Beyond all doubt, we may say family worship is more frequent, as a general practice, in houses of the rich, and also in the houses of farmers and of superior operatives, than it was some years ago. The Montrose anecdote about family prayers, told at page 64, could hardly have place now, and indeed many persons could not understand the point.

I hope I am not blinded to the defects of my own countrymen, nor am I determined to resist evidence of any deterioration which may be proved. But I feel confident that Scotland still stands pre-eminent amongst the nations for moral and religious qualities. The nucleus of her character will bear comparison with any. We will cherish hope for the mental tone of our countrymen being still in the ascendant, and still imbued with those qualities that make a moral and religious people. We have reason to know that in many departments of business, Scottish intelligence, Scottish character, and Scottish services are still decidedly at a premium in the market.

But now, before concluding, I am desirous of recording some Reminiscences upon a phase of Scottish RELIGIOUS history which involves very important consequences, and which I would not attempt to discuss without serious consideration. Indeed I have sometimes shrunk from the discussion at all, as leading to questions of so delicate a nature, and as involving matters on which there are so many differences of opinion. I refer to the state of our divisions and alienations of spirit on account of religion.

The great Disruption, which nearly equally divided the National Church, and which took place in 1843, is now become a matter of reminiscence. Of those nearly connected with that movement, some were relatives of my own, and many were friends. Unlike similar religious revolutions, that which caused the Free Church of Scotland did not turn upon any difference of opinion on matters either of doctrine or of ecclesiastical polity. It arose entirely from differences regarding the relation subsisting between the Church and the State, by which the Church was established and endowed. The great evil of all such divisions, and the real cause for regret, lie in the injury they inflict on the cause of Christian unity and Christian love, and the separation they too often make between those who ought to be united in spirit, and who hitherto have been not infrequently actually joined for years as companions and friends. The tone which is adopted by publications, which are the organs of various party opinions amongst us, show how keenly disputants, once excited, will deal with each other. The differences consequent upon the Disruption in the Scottish Church called forth great bitterness of spirit and much mutual recrimination at the time. But it seems to me that there are indications of a better spirit, and that there is more tolerance and more forbearance on religious differences amongst Scottish people generally. I cannot help thinking, however, that at no period of our ecclesiastical annals was such language made use of, and even against those of the highest place and authority in the Church, as we have lately met with in the organs of the extreme Anglican Church party. It is much to be regretted that earnest and zealous men should have adopted such a style of discussing religious differences. I cannot help thinking it is injurious to Christian feelings of love and. Christian kindness. It is really sometimes quite appalling. From the same quarter I must expect myself severe handling for some of these pages, should they fall into their way. We cannot but lament, however, when we find such language used towards each other by those who are believers in a common Bible, and who are followers and, disciples of the same lowly Saviour, and indeed frequently members of the same Church. Bigotry and intolerance are not confined to one side or another. They break out often where least expected. Differences, no doubt, will always exist on many contested subjects, but I would earnestly pray that all such differences, amongst ourselves at least, as those which injure the forbearance and gentleness of the Christian character, should become "Scottish Reminiscences," whether they are called forth by the opposition subsisting between Presbyterianism and Episcopacy, or whether they arise amongst Presbyterians or amongst Episcopalians themselves.

To my apprehension Scotland has recently seen a most painful indication of the absence of that charity which, according to St Paul, should "never fail" amongst a Christian people. The act of two English Prelates officiating in one of the Established churches has called forth a storm of indignation as loud and vehement as if in a heathen land they had fallen down before the image of a heathen deity, and worshipped in a heathen temple. Then the explanation which has been given by apologists for these services is not the least remarkable feature of the transaction. These ministrations have been called "Mission Services," and, in so far as I enter into the meaning of the phrase, I would solemnly and seriously protest against its being made use of in such a case. "Mission Service" can only be applied to the case of a missionary raising his voice "in partibus infidelium," or, to say the least of it, in a land where no Christian church was already planted. When I think of the piety, the Christian worth, and high character of so many friends in the Established and other Presbyterian churches in Scotland, I would again repeat my solemn protestation against such religious intolerance, and again declare my conviction, that Englishmen and Scotsmen, so far from looking out for points of difference and grounds for separation on account of the principles on which their Churches are established, should endeavour to make the bonds of religious union as close as possible. I can scarcely express the gratification I felt on learning from the Scotsman, November 20, that such were the sentiments called forth by this event in the mind of one of the ablest and most distinguished Prelates of our day. In reference to the Glengarry services, the Bishop of St Andrews (Wordsworth) has declared his opinion, that the "subsequent explanations of those services seemed to mar the good work by introducing questions of etiquette, where nothing should have been thought of but the simple performance of Christian duty by Christian ministers for the benefit of Christian people."

Such is the judgment expressed by the honoured and learned Bishop of St Andrews, whose noble and patriotic exertions to draw the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians of Scotland closer together in bonds of religious feelings and religious worship have been spoken of in such terms, and such words have been applied to his labours in that cause, and to the administration generally of his own diocese, by one of the very high English Church papers, as have been to me a cause of deep sorrow and poignant regret.

As a Scotsman by descent from Presbyterians of high moral and religious character, and as an Episcopalian by conscientious preference, I would fain see more of harmony and of confidence between all Scotsmen, not only as fellow-countrymen, but as fellow-Christians. When I first joined the Episcopal Church the Edinburgh Episcopal clergy were on most friendly terms with the leading clergy of the Established Church. Every consideration was shown to them by such men as Bishop Sandford, Dr Morehead, Rev. Archibald Alison, Rev. Mr Shannon, and others. There was always service in the Episcopal chapels on the National Church communion fast-days. No opposition or dislike to Episcopalian clergymen occupying Presbyterian pulpits was ever avowed as a great principle. Charles Simeon of Cambridge, and others of the Churches of England and Ireland, frequently so officiated, and it was considered as natural and suitable. The learning and high qualities of the Church of England’s hierarchy, were, with few exceptions, held in profound respect. Indeed, during the last hundred years, and since the days when Episcopacy was attacked under the term of "black prelacy," I can truly say, the Episcopal order has received far more severe handling in Episcopal England than it has received in Presbyterian Scotland. I must think, that in the case of two churches where the grounds of resemblance are on points of spiritual importance, affecting great truths and doctrines of salvation, and where the points of difference affect questions more of government and external order than of salvation, there ought to be on both parts the desire at least to draw as closely as they can the bonds of Christian charity and mutual confidence.

I believe it to be very painful to Scotsmen generally, whether of the Established or the Episcopal Church, that the Presbyterian Church of Scotland should be spoken of in such terms as have lately been made use of. Scotsmen feel towards it as to the Church of the country established by law, just as the Anglican Church is established in England. They feel towards it as the Church whose ministrations are attended by our gracious Sovereign when she resides in the northern portion of her dominions, and in which public thanksgiving was offered to God in the royal presence for her Majesty’s recovery. But more important still, they feel towards it as a church of which the members are behind no other communion in the tone and standard of their moral principle and integrity of conduct. They feel towards it as a church which has nobly retained her adherence to the principles of the Reformation, and which has been spared the humiliation of exhibiting any of her clergy nominally members of a reformed church, and, at the same time, virtually and at heart adherents to the opinions and practices of the Church of Rome. English people, in speaking of the Established Church of Scotland, seem to forget how much Episcopalians are mixed up with their Presbyterian fellow-countrymen in promoting common charitable and religious objects. For example, take my own experience: the administration of a very valuable charitable institution called the Paterson and Pape Fund, is vested jointly in the incumbent of St John’s, Edinburgh (Episcopalian), and the two clergymen of St Cuthbert’s (Established) Church. Even in matters affecting the interests of our own Church we may find ourselves closely connected. Take the administration of the late Miss Walker’s will, and the carrying out her munificent bequest to our Church, of which I am a trustee. Of the nine trustees, two are Episcopalians residing in Scotland, one an Episcopalian residing in England, and six are Presbyterians residing in Scotland. The primary object of Miss Walker’s settlement is to build and endow, for divine service, a cathedral church in Edinburgh; the edifice to cost not less than £40,000. The income arising from the remainder of her property is to be expended for the benefit of’ the Scottish Episcopal Church generally. A meeting of trustees was held, November 25, 1871, and one of the first steps unanimously agreed upon was to appoint the Bishop-Coadjutor of Edinburgh, who is a trustee, to be chairman of the meeting. There is no doubt or question of mutual good feeling in the work, and that our Church feels full and entire confidence in the fair, honourable, candid, and courteous conduct of the trustees to whom in this case will be committed weighty matters connected with her interests.

At one of the congresses of the English Church it has been said, and well said, by Mr B. Hope, that he and his friends of the High Church party would join as closely as they could with the members of the Romish Church who have taken common cause with Dr Dollinger, "looking more to points where they agree, and not to points where they differ." Why should not the same rule be adopted towards brethern who differ from ourselves so little on points that are vital and eternal? The principle which I would apply to the circumstances, I think, may be thus stated: I would join with fellow-Christians in any good works or offices, either of charity or religion, where I could do so without compromise of my own principles. On such ground I do not see why we should not realise the idea already suggested, viz., that of having an interchange between our pulpits and the pulpits of the Established and other Presbyterian or Independent Churches. Such ministerial interchange need not affect the question of orders, nor need it, in fact, touch many other questions on which differences are concerned.

Of course this should be arranged under due regulation, and with full precaution taken that the questions discussed shall be confined to points where there is agreement, and that points of difference should be left quite in abeyance. Why should we, under proper arrangements, fail to realise so graceful an exercise of Christian charity? Why should we lose the many benefits favourable to the advancement of Christian unity amongst us? An opportunity for practically putting this idea into a tangible form has occurred from the circumstance of the new chapel in the University of Glasgow being opened for service, to be conducted by clergymen of various churches. I gladly avail myself of the opportunity of testifying my grateful acknowledgments for the courteous and generous conduct of Dr Caird, in his efforts to put forward members of our Church to conduct the services of the College chapel, and also of expressing my admiration of the power and beauty of his remarks on Christian unity and on brotherly love. ["What is Religion?" a sermon by Rev. John Caird, D.D., Professor of Divinity in the University of Glasgow, and one of Her Majesty’s Chaplains for Scotland. See especially concluding remarks.]

This is with me no new idea; no crude experiment proposed for the occasion. I have before me a paper which I wrote some years since, and which I had put into the shape of "An Address to the Bishops," to sanction such exchange of pulpits, hoping to get some of my clerical brethern to join in the object of the address. I feel assured much good would, under God, be the result of such spiritual union. If congregations would only unite in exchange of such friendly offices of religious instruction with each other, how often would persons, now strangers, become better acquainted! I wish the experiment could be tried, were it only to show how prejudices would be removed; how misunderstandings would be cleared away; how many better and kinder feelings would grow out of the closer union on religious questions! Nay, I would go further, and express my full conviction, that my own Church would gain rather than lose in her interests under such a system. Men would be more disposed to listen with attention, and examine with candour the arguments we make use of in favour of our Church views. We should gain more of the sympathy of our countrymen who differ from us, by a calm expostulation than by bitter invective. Beautifully and wisely was it written by a sacred pen nearly three thousand years ago, "A soft answer turneth away wrath."

I have such confidence in the excellence of my own Church, that I believe to bring persons into closer and kinder connection with our system would be the more likely way to gain their approval and their favourable judgment. In nothing do we lose more of the confidence and estimation of our fellow-countrymen than in the feeling of our being intolerant and exclusive in our religious opinions. It is curious people should not see that the arguments addressed in a friendly spirit must tell more powerfully than the arguments of one who shows his hostile feeling.

With these feelings on the subject, it may be easily understood with what pleasure I read, in the Edinburgh Courant of November 10, a report of what our Primus (Bishop Eden) said, at the entertainment which was given on the occasion of the consecration of St Mary’s Church, Glasgow. In speaking on the question of Union, the Primus said:—

"I think I may speak for my Episcopal brethren; when I say that if the heads, especially of the Established Church of Scotland—for that is the body that has most power and influence—if a proposal were made by the leading men in that Church, in concurrence with those who hold views similar to themselves—a conference of the representative men of the different Churches—to consider in a Christian spirit what our differences are, and what are the points on which we are agreed; we would be most happy to take part in it. Such a conference might, in the providence of God, lead to our being drawn nearer to each other. I believe that then the prayer which the Bishop of St Andrews offered up would be the earlier accomplished, namely, that the Episcopal Churches might become Reformed, and the Reformed Churches become Episcopal. If any proposal of this kind could be made, I believe we would be most ready to accept any invitation to consider whether the various Churches might not be drawn nearer to each other." (Great applause.)

The Coadjutor Bishop of Edinburgh in his address, after briefly referring to some proposals that had been made for union among the churches in South Africa, went on to say:—

"I do say, as one of the Bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church now, and in reference to what fell from the Primus, that I most heartily concur in what he said, and I cannot but feel that, without the slightest breath of the great fundamental principles of the Church of Christ, there are many points on which we may be at one with Christians who are not part of our organic body.

"I believe the proposal made by the Primus would have the effect of drawing them nearer to us, and be a step forward to that consummation which we all desire, and which our blessed Lord prayed—with his last breath— ‘That we may all be one.’" (Great applause.)

That two honoured Fathers of our Church, our Primus and my own Bishop, should have made use of such terms, and that their views should have been received by such an audience with so much applause, I could have offered a grateful acknowledgment upon my knees.

But after all, perhaps, it may be said this is an utopian idea, which, in the present state of religious feelings and ecclesiastical differences, never can be realised. It were a sufficient answer to the charge of utopianism brought against such a proposal to plead that it was no more than what was sanctioned by the teaching of God’s word. In this case it does not seem to go beyond the requirements of holy Scripture as set forth in St Paul’s description of charity, and in other passages which clearly enjoin Christians to act towards each other in love, and to cultivate, so far as they can, a spirit of mutual forbearance and of joint action in the sacred cause of preaching the truth as it is in Jesus. I cannot believe that, were St Paul on earth, he would sanction the present state of jealous separation amongst Christians. Take such separation in connection with the beautiful sentiment, which we read in Phil. i., 19:- "What then? notwithstanding every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice."

The determination to exclude preaching that is not strictly according to our own forms seems to me quite inconsistent with the general teaching of Scripture, more particularly with this apostolic declaration. But I would bring this question to a practical issue, and we shall find enough in our own experience to confirm the view I have taken, and to sanction the arrangement I propose. To bring forward co-operation in the great and vitally important work of preaching God’s word, which has been already effected between persons holding on some points opinions different from each other, take first the case of revision of the English translation of the Old and New Testament Scriptures, as it has been resolved upon by the authorities of the great Anglican Communion. They have had no difficulty in finding Nonconformist scholars and divines whose fitness to be associated with Anglican Churchmen in the great work of arranging and correcting an authorised version has been admitted by all. Thus we have Nonconformists and English and Scottish Episcopalians united in adjusting the terms of the sacred text — the text from which all preaching in the English tongue shall in future derive its authority, and by which all its teaching shall in future be guided and directed. There is already, however, a closer and a more practical blending of minds on great religious questions much differing from each other on lesser points. In the field of religious and devotional literature, many of our church differences are lost sight of. Episcopalian congregations are constantly in the habit of joining with much cordiality and earnestness in singing hymns composed by authors, nonconformists with our Church—in fact, of adopting them into their church service. These compositions form a portion of their worship, and are employed to illustrate and enforce their own most earnest doctrinal views and opinions themselves. How entirely are such compositions as the sacramental hymn, "My God, and is Thy table spread," by Doddridge; the hymn, "When I behold the wondrous cross," by Isaac Watts, associated with our Church services! Nor are such feelings of adoption confined to poetical compositions. How many prose productions by non-Episcopalian authors might be introduced for the delight and benefit of Christian congregations! How eagerly many such compositions are read by members of our Church! With what delight would many discourses of this class have been listened to had they been delivered to Episcopalian congregations! Where such hymns and such discourses are admissible, the authors of them might take a part in conducting psalmody and in occupying the pulpit for preaching to a congregation. If the spirits of such writers as Doddridge, Watts, and Hall, have been felt to permeate and to influence the hearts of others who have heard or read their words of holiness and peace, we may well suppose that God would sanction their making like impressions, in his own house, upon the hearts of those whom they meet there face to face. Might they not communicate personally what they communicate through the press? For example, why should not Robert Hall have preached his sermons on Infidelity and on the Death of the Princess of Wales perhaps the two most magnificent discourses in the language, in an English Cathedral? Why should not the beautiful astronomical discourses of Thomas Chalmers have been delivered in St Paul’s or in St John’s, Edinburgh? For many years, in want of better materials, the sermons of Dr Blair were more used in the Church of England, and more read in private, than any similar compositions. It has been for years a growing persuasion in my own mind that principles of Christian love and mutual harmony are too often sacrificed to the desire of preserving the exact and formal marks of church order, as the Bishop of St Andrews so happily expressed it to preserve etiquette. Surely the great law of aristian love would suggest and enforce a union at least of spirit amongst Christian believers, who cannot join in the unity of the same organisation: Inability to join in the same form of church polity and church order need not shut the door to religious sympathies and religious communion, where there are so many. points of agreement and of mutual interest. The experience of the past will tend to produce the conviction that there has too often been in our religious disputes a strong tendency in all Christian denominations to make the great principle of love, which is a principle to rule in Heaven and for eternity, actually subservient and subordinate to a system of ecclesiastical order, which, important as it is for its own purposes and objects, never can be more than a guide to the ministration of the Church on earth, and an organisation which must be in its nature confined to time.

Wherever or whenever this feeling may be called forth, it is a grievous error—it is a very serious subject for our reflection, how far such want of sympathy and of union with those who do not belong immediately to our own church, must generate a feeling hostile to a due reception of an important article of our faith, termed in the Apostles’ Creed the COMMUNION OF SAINTS. According to the description given by the judicious and learned Bishop Pearson, this communion or spiritual union belongs to all who are in New Testament language denominated SAINTS; by which he means all who, having been baptized in the faith, have this name by being called and baptized. Then he states all Christian believers to have communion and fellowship with these, whether living or dead. We should feel towards such persons (evidently, as the good Bishop implies, without reference to any particular church order) all sympathy and kindness as members of the same great spiritual family on earth, expectants of meeting in heaven in the presence of God and of the Lamb, and of joining in the worship of saints and angels round the throne. I have no hesitation in declaring my full conviction that such expectations of future communion should supply a very powerful and sacred motive for our cultivating all spiritual union in our power with all fellow-Christians, all for whom Christ died. It becomes a very serious subject for examination of our own hearts, how, by refusing any spiritual intercourse with Christians who are not strictly members of our own Church, we may contravene this noble doctrine of the Communion of Saints; for does not the bitterness with which sometimes we find all union with certain fellow-Christians in the Church on earth chill or check the feeling of a desire for union with the same in the Church above? Nay, is there not matter for men’s earnest thought, how far the violent animosity displayed against the smallest approach to anything like spiritual communion with all Christians of a different Church from their own may chill the DESIRE itself for "meeting in the Church above?" Can hatred to meeting on earth be in any sense a right preliminary or preparation for desire to meet in Heaven? Nay, more, should we not carefully guard lest the bitter displays we see of religious hostility may even tend to bring men’s minds towards a disinclination to meet in Heaven, of. which the most terrible condition was thus expressed by Southey:—" Earth could not hold us both, nor can one heaven." [See Southey's Roderick, book xxi.]

One mark of any particular Church being a portion of Christ’s Church on earth seems to be overlooked by some of our English friends, and that is a mark pointed out by our Lord himself when he said, "By their FRUITS ye shall know them." By this announcement I would understand that besides and beyond a profession of the great articles of the Christian faith, I would, as a further criterion of a Christian church, inquire if there were many of its members who have been distinguished for their Christian piety, Christian learning, and Christian benevolence. Is all external communion to be interdicted with a church which has produced such men as we might name amongst the children of our Established and other Churches in Scotland? Look back upon half-a-century, and ask if a similar act with that of the Archbishop of York and Bishop of Winchester would then have created a like feeling. I can remember well the interest and admiration called forth by the eloquence, the philanthropy, and the moral fervour of Dr Chalmers, amongst, the High Church school of the day too— the good Archbishop Howley, Bishop Blomfield, Rev. Mr Norris of Backney, Mr Joshua Watson, etc. I remember, too, the perfect ovation he received in the attendance of Archbishops, Bishops, Clergy, Peers, Princes, etc., of the great London world, at his lectures on Establishments. We can hardly imagine any one saying then, "This is all very well, but the Church that produced this man is no part of the true Church of Christ, and no English prelate or clergyman could possibly take service in it."

No one, I believe, who is acquainted with my own views and opinions on religious subjects would say that I look with indifference on those points wherein we differ from the great body of our fellow-countrymen. I am confident that I should not gain in the estimation of Presbyterians themselves by showing a cold indifference, or a lukewarm attachment, to the principles and practice of my own Church. They would see that my own convictions in favour of Episcopal government in the Church, and of liturgical services in her worship, were quite compatible with the fullest exercise of candour and forbearance towards the opinions of others—I mean on questions not essential to salvation.

I believe that there are persons amongst us coming round to this opinion, and who are ready to believe that it is quite possible for Christians to exercise very friendly mutual relations in spiritual matters which constitute the essential articles of a common faith, whilst they are in practice separated on points of ecclesiastical order and of church government. I am old, and shall not see it; but I venture to hope that, under the Divine blessing, the day will come when to Scotsmen it will be a matter of reminiscence that Episcopalians, or that Presbyterians of any denomination, should set the interests of their own communion above the exercise of that charity that for a brother’s faith "hopeth all things and believeth all things." Zeal in promoting our own Church views, and a determination to advance her interests and efficiency, need be no impediment to cultivating the most friendly feelings towards those who agree with us in matters which are essential to salvation, and who, in their differences from us, are, I am bound to believe, as conscientious as myself. Such days will come.

But now, to close my remarks on national peculiarities, with what I may term a practical and personal application. We have in our later pages adopted a more solemn and serious view of past reminiscences as they bear upon questions connected with a profession of religion. It is quite suitable then to recall the fact which applies individually to all our readers. We shall ourselves each of us one day become subject to a "reminiscence" of others. Indeed, the whole question at issue throughout the work takes for granted what we must all have observed to be a very favourite object with survivors, viz., that the characters of various persons, as they pass away, will be always spoken of, and freely discussed, by those who survive them. We recall the eccentric, and we are amused with a remembrance of their eccentricities. We admire the wise and dignified of the past. There are some who are recollected only to be detested for their vices—some to be pitied for their weaknesses and follies—some to be scorned for mean and selfish conduct. But there are others whose memory is embalmed in tears of grateful recollection. There are those whose generosity and whose kindness, whose winning sympathy and noble disinterested virtues are never thought upon or ever spoken of without calling forth a blessing. Might it not, therefore, be good for us often to ask ourselves how we are likely to be spoken of when the grave has closed upon the intercourse between us and the friends whom we leave behind? The thought might, at any rate, be useful as an additional motive for kind and generous conduct to each other. And then the inquiry would come home to each one in some such form as this: "Within the circle of my family and friends—within the hearts of those who have known me, and were connected with me in various social relations—what will be the estimate formed of me when I am gone? What will be the spontaneous impression produced by looking back on bygone intercourses in life. Will past thought of me furnish the memory of those who survive me with recollections that will be fond and pleasing?" In one word, let each one ask himself (I speak to countrymen and countrywomen), "Will my name be associated with gentle and happy ‘REMINISCENCES OF SCOTTISH LIFE AND CHARACTER?'"

THE END
OF
THE SCOTTISH CLASSICS EDITION OF
REMINISCENCES OF
SCOTTISH LIFE AND CHARACTER
BY
DEAN RAMSAY


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