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Chronicals of Stratheden
Religion of a Highland Parish of To-Day


BY many the religious beliefs and ways prevalent among Highlanders have long been believed to be largely tinged with narrowness if not with fanaticism, and to partake very largely of a gloomy hue. The allegation, to some extent, may be true, but it may be misleading. There is, of course, no clear reason why a gloomy religion should prevail in one district of the country more than in another, on account of its geographical situation. No doubt one cannot help thinking that the remote loneliness of the mountain-girt habitations of many of the Highlanders may have tended to foster gloomy if not superstitious thoughts. Taking this for granted, the student of the history of religious development will watch with interest the results of the fact that the remoteness indicated is disappearing before steamers, railways, and the telegraph. In connection with such influence as the remoteness may have had, it may be worth considering whether something of the nature of a gloomy superstition may not belong to the religion of all peoples in the primitive or earlier stage of their history. Assuming this to be the case, the remoteness of the Highlands generally—a remoteness which, until recently, had a great influence have helped to perpetuate the primitive ways of thinking, and a gloomy aspect would long colour the religious views of the northern Highlanders. A wave of progress, however, aided in its advance by the travelling facilities of to-day, has since spread over the country generally; and though, perhaps, it was longer of reach — in, the far north, it did come, and its enlightening effects — which, marvellous to relate, some people were slow to welcome—are daily becoming more extended and appreciated.

It would be a pity, however, if it were thought that anything of the nature of a fatal error belonged to the prevalent type of religion in Highland parishes of other days. Indeed, to this hour, and with some truth, many are ready to accord the religious Highlander of, say, some forty or fifty years ago a high place for devoutness and piety.  "The piety of the north," "the devout Highlander," "the serious Celt " are terms in frequent use in some quarters with reference to the period indicated. Nor, perhaps, can better instances of simpleminded piety be found than were some of the native residents of a Highland parish of that time, and suchlike ones as are yet to be met with. Genuinely reverent, they live under the influence of an abiding sense of the nearness of the unseen world, and each step seems made as if in the presence of an all-seeing One. They have their failings, of course, of the head and also of the heart, but the persons referred to are such as one cannot but feel interested in, not only because of their, generally speaking, guileless ways and devout life, but also because they form the diminishing few of a type of character rapidly fading away. Not that the Highland character, religiously or otherwise, is necessarily deteriorating. It would, indeed, evidence a very feeble faith in religion if it could be believed that it must fade before the advance of progress and general enlightenment. So far as the Highland character is concerned, though some of its simpler, and perhaps guileless, aspects may be disappearing, it is generally believed to be growing in breadth, industriousness, wand general usefulness. Notwithstanding this, very many look back regretfully upon a past of some forty years ago as the "good old days" in the religious history of the northern Highlanders —and no doubt, in every Highland parish then and for some time after, the type we have referred to was pretty largely represented. Simple faith and hopeful trust were prominent features in the character of those alluded to. They knew or felt little or nothing of the bitter venomous animosity sectarianism is so fertile of; and though certain of their views regarding the Creator may have been crude, if not false, this theoretical weakness was condoned by the simple hopeful way in which they invariably trusted in the Supreme Being. Subsequent to the secession of '43 from the Established Church of Scotland, when the great majority of the northern Highlanders forsook the Church of their fathers, such representatives of the type of character here remarked on as were found in the ranks of the opposing parties were innocent of the uncharitableness and evil-speaking too many on both sides were guilty of.

Into the question between the two Presbyterian bodies composing the religious denominations of the greater number of our Highland parishes we do not choose to enter. Such an inquiry is foreign to our purpose, and is, as a rule, profitless. After all the wrangling of the past, the many unhappy squabblings at, and since, Disruption times—squabblings too well known in Highland parishes—nothing has been made clearer than that in both the Free and the Established Church there are good men and true, as also false men and vile. This fact, though surely obvious enough, many persons of both denominations apparently forget.

Within recent years there are two matters that have occasioned no small noise and anxiety in Highland parishes, as in other places—the so-called "Union" question, and the case of Professor Robertson Smith. The Union negotiations—that is, the steps taken by the Free Church (for the United Presbyterian Church seemed passive in the matter) towards union with the latter Church—suddenly collapsed about ten years ago, after having engaged the attention of the Free Church for many years previously. In the Highlands generally the great majority of the clergy and laity of the Free Church were opposed to the union, and the dislike to entertain the idea is as strong to-day as it ever was. Here and there a solitary instance was met with of a Free Church clergyman in the Highlands being a "unionist." Some of his anti-union brethren, and anti-union members of even his own congregation, often enough made the ground hot for him, though scarcely see hot as the region to which, as we have been credibly informed, certain Free Church people — and clergymen too, we were particularly surprised to hear—were wont in Disruption days to relegate "Moaderats," as the Established Church people were called by the native Free Church people. Although the Union negotiations have broken down, the bitterness of feeling occasioned has not yet disappeared; and very probably it would be as difficult for the great majority of those who were against the union to explain clearly why they were or are so, as it would be for the Free Church leaders in favour of union to explain why they ever initiated the negotiations. The clergy and laity of the Established Church in the Highlands, as a rule, took little interest in the matter, though we have heard several of them allege that one of the objects aimed at by those favourable to union—the main object, indeed—was the overthrow of the Established Church, the endowments of which are believed to be a source of much irritation to the voluntaries of the Free Church. But we must not here discuss the Union question. It only remains for us to add on this subject that it was generally understood that it was the large and determined opposition to union manifested in Highland parishes that very much led to the sudden and somewhat remarkably manoeuvred step that resulted in the collapse of the Union negotiations.

Scarcely had the Union question been shelved when the perplexing Robertson Smith case turned up. This alleged heresy occasioned, and still occasions, much anxiety and alarm in the north generally; and by at least three-fourths of the Free Church population, and by not a few, as well, of the "Moaderats," the young Professor is regarded as a very dangerous person. A very prevalent opinion regarding him in Highland parishes is, that he wishes, so say many, "to take bits away from the Bible, and no believe what Moases said." Fully as hearty and prevalent, if not more so, in Highland parishes, was the condemnation of Professor Smith, and his views regarding "bits of the Bible," as was the dislike to the proposed coalition with the United Presbyterian Church; and the judgment of the Free Church Assembly of 1880 in favour of the Professor caused much and deep anxiety among Free Church people generally in Highland parishes, where the decision was as little expected as it was hoped for. The subsequent and much-talked-of action of a section of the Free Church has been cordially welcomed by Free Church Highlanders generally, the eagerly hoped for result being that the suspected Professor should be "putten oot o' the Church."

There are two churches in Stratheden—an Established and a Free—and the great majority of the inhabitants adhere to the latter, which is the case in the northern Highlands generally. The adherents of the Established Church, admitting the numerical superiority of the Free Church, are in the habit of insinuating that the more intelligent and influential of the residents of our Highland parishes adhere to the Establishment; and it is amusing, though scarcely creditable to the good sense of either party, to hear how the one side upbraids the other with weakness in intelligence and influence, and how that other retorts with the insinuation about numerical feebleness. Peter Ross, an adherent of the Established Church in Stratheden, in discussing this matter the other day with Alexander Maclean, a neighbour, and an adherent of the Free Church, said: "Ah, man, Sandy, ye hey a lot o' them; but the quaalatty, and the ones that hess eddikayshan, goes to oor Church, the good ould Church o' Scotland." "Och, maybe yuss Peter," was the reply; "but look in your Bible — if you'll be reading it; surely you'll be reading it—and if you wull, you'll see the quaalatty and some o' the big rich chaps 'ull no hey much chance some day, Peter. What does the Bible say aboot the rich ones, and the cawmall and the needle, and going in through the needle? What wull eddikayshan and quaalatty do then, Peter?" "Be quate, Sandy; you're worse nor a cawmall yourself," vigorously retorted Peter. "Surely there's no harm in quaalatty and eddikayshan; and surely if they'll be good themselves, that wull no spoil them. P'raps, Sandy, you're only kind o' vexed ye hevna some o' the money and the grandar o' the quaalatty in your own Church. Indeed, the Free Church is ferry foand o' money, and they'll be askin' of people that liessna much to give; and they're ferry soary to pairt wi' it; but they must be like their neeburs, and they'll give it."

In Stratheden almost all the "big fairmers" adhere to the "Auld Kirk," but the great majority of the crofters and natives attend the Free Church. In using the term "natives," it is proper to observe that in Stratheden, as in most other Highland parishes of to-day, there is a considerable number of "strangers" One of the "big fairmers" is a native of one of the south-eastern counties of Scotland, one is an Aberdonian, another hails from the south of England, while a fourth comes from Lanarkshire. Besides these there are ploughmen from Banffshire, shepherds from Roxburgh and Northumberland, and gamekeepers from England and from Aberdeenshire. A very large proportion of this imported element adhere to the Church of Scotland; but it is beyond our province to inquire whether all these are to be included among those indicated by Peter Ross when he referred to "the quaalatty and the people that hess eddikayshan."

There was a time in Stratheden, and in too many Highland parishes, when the feeling between the adherents of the two Churches was, to say the least, not what it ought to have been. Bitter, very bitter, things were said on both sides, but we leave it to those that know the facts, to say on which side the greater bitterness was displayed. Instances —too many—might be given of the venomous and silly things said of and to each other, by the Christians of that time ; but it would serve no good purpose to repeat them, and far be it from us to say anything that would revive memories of sayings and doings that "good men and true," of whatever Church, would like to forget.

Happily such silly nonsense as is understood to have been prevalent in those days is not now, to any great extent at least, heard. No doubt some rather remarkable statements are even yet put forward. Only a few years ago, as we were informed by a Free Church clergyman, a north-Highland divine of the Free Church, in addressing his congregation, made reference to "the Moderates," and said: "Ah, my friends, there are three kinds of people like each other; and, my friends, these three kinds of people that are like each other are the Pawgans, the Moderates, and the Hottentots. And what do you think now, my friends, of the Moderates? Ali! what do you think of them?" This instance of pulpit sectarianism—the pulpit displays more of this unworthy feeling than the pew—is mild compared with what has been heard, and is chronicled partly as an evidence of the absurdities into which feeble narrowness drives some people. Though matters are happily more promising nowadays—traces of the old feeling now and then appear. There was too much of it noticeable at the recent school board elections, and more than enough of it crops up at school board and certain other public meetings.

The people of Stratheden, generally speaking, attend church regularly. In the busier seasons of the year—spring and harvest—the attendance is thinner. Many of the crofters and others are hard wrought, and the, distance from church in many cases is great; accordingly they elect to sleep at home in preference to sleeping in church ; and this is wise, for the spring and autumn "nap" might be an awkwardly prolonged one.

This may be a suitable place for referring to the matter of Sunday observance in a Highland parish of to-day. Highlanders have long been understood greatly to revere this day, and they have also been credited with encouraging a narrow, and even superstitious, estimate of the right observance of the "Sawbath." As a rule they did and do revere the day, and some of them did observe it narrowly, and perhaps superstitiously, though this latter fact can scarcely be considered peculiar to Highlanders. Narrower views, however, are giving way to more cheerful and healthier ways of thinking, though even yet traces of the old feeling are discernible. Some of the older people in Stratheden, think it not right to laugh or go out to breathe the fresh air on "Sawbath," though they can quite tolerate, and even practise, uncharitable gossip, lying, and scandal in their homes on the sacred day. Some of this class, steeped in the chilling unhealthiness of the letter-and-form sort of religion, will not allow their children to have their honest laugh, or even look at picture-books of the most useful kind, on "Sawbath;" but these same people will afford their children on the same day an opportunity of hearing how they (the parents) can talk enviously and falsely of their neighbours, and, as is sometimes the case, utter language of a kind decidedly unfavourable to the moral training of the young. One of the older natives of a Highland parish of to-day gravely assured us in conversation not long ago, that the people were "growing awful careless and baad" now, because, as he proceeded to observe, "in my younger days you wouldna see any person at all oot on Sawbath, exceptin' the people going to the preachin'. The children wouldna say a word nor laugh, nor go oot o' the door, nor anything, and not a living would go near a well for wattur, and it's hardly some o' the people would wash themselves on Sawbath! But ochan ! ochan! that's no the way in the day that's int now. I am seeing young people, yes, and ould people, walking, yes, and jumping too, on the braes, and the children will be oot, and people are fearful dressy and grawnd on the Sawbath." Happily, more enlightened views, generally speaking, prevail in a Highland parish of to-day. The wave of progress that spread over the country generally has now made itself felt. The educational machinery has been enlarged and improved, while travel has helped to leaven the narrowness and gloom of the northern Highlands with the broader, more cheerful, and healthier views prevalent in more highly favoured centres of intelligence and general progress. There is a large and growing circulation of excellent Sunday literature, and the general result is a clearer appreciation of the truth that "the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath."

In Stratheden Gaelic and English are preached regularly in the Free and Established Churches. Both parsons are well up in the Gaelic language; and this is deserving of notice, because, in some parishes in which Gaelic as well as English is understood to be preached, the Gaelic-speaking attainments of the clergy even are not of a high order. No important interest suffers in consequence, for as a rule, in no Highland parish of to-day is there any but the smallest number that cannot well enough follow all that it is useful to remember of an English sermon; and besides, the defects in Gaelic speaking rarely, if ever, occasion any pronounced heresy. At the same time, to those that really know Gaelic, and the proper pronunciation thereof, the blunders of speech thus occurring must sound very ludicrous. We have heard of a case of this kind taking place in a Highland parish, not many years ago, where the preacher in attempting to use the Gaelic equivalents for lost sinners (peacaicla cliaillte) used the words piocaicla shaillie, these latter words signifying a species of salted fish with which the most of the congregation were well acquainted ! It will be seen the reverend gentleman was literally at sea; and some of our readers can imagine the utter contempt such of the audience as knew Gaelic well would feel for the parson's Gaelic acquirements. The young people, of course, would giggle, while some of the old would sigh. Another equally ludicrous instance of this blundering we had from no other than the reverend gentleman that perpetrated the mistake. He had been alluding to fault-finding in the course of his Gaelic preaching one day, and in quoting the illustration of the beam and the mote, said an t-saill, instead of an t-sail,—that is, the fat, instead of the beam. The difference, to look at both words, does not seem great; but, to those that really know Gaelic, the difference in sound is perceptible enough, and the observation correspondingly, grotesque.

In Stratheden, as already said, Gaelic is regularly preached in the Free and Established Churches. Both clergymen are quite at home in the language; and whatever irrelevant or other matter they may utter, there is little danger of either of them perpetrating aught in the style of the ludicrous blunders referred to. In both churches the services of the Sunday begin with the Gaelic portion. In the Established Church the proportion of those that know Gaelic better than English is small; while, in the Free Church, the reverse is understood to be the case. The Gaelic portion of the services occupies more time in the Free Church than in the Established Church,—a practice which satisfies an idea long prevalent among a certain section of Highlanders that sermons are nothing if not long. To this day there are a few in most of our Highland parishes that would view a preacher that would give short sermons as not a good man—as being "unsound."

With reference to the relative position of the two languages—Gaelic and English—so far as preaching in Highland churches is concerned, very marked changes have taken place within recent years. Some twenty years ago, in almost all Highland parishes, at the conclusion of the Gaelic services, a considerable number would leave, not being able to understand an English discourse. To-day there are very few parishes, indeed, of which this can be said; and in not a few cases, few, if any, leave until after the English service is over, though some that wait might be found to be by no means accomplished in the English language. Within the last twenty-five years there were some Highland parishes in which there was no English preached, so complete was the sway of Gaelic. The greater number of the better educated portion of the community in those days knew and spoke Gaelic well; while, if there did happen to be any that knew English better than Gaelic, or that knew nothing of the latter, they were favoured with special services. Even to-day, a solitary instance may be met with—especially in the Outer Hebrides —of a church in which English is not regularly preached. Last winter we heard an amusing story bearing on this matter from a member of the Free Church. At the time the incident about to be related happened, some three years ago, our informant, an intelligent young lady, had been residing in a district of the Highlands where the Free Church clergyman whose ministrations she usually attended rarely preached English. On a certain Sunday, at the conclusion of the Garlic service, the reverend gentleman announced that if any present wished to hear an English sermon, he would be glad, on their remaining after the others left, to comply with their request. Our informant and another young lady formed the English congregation for the day. The usual preliminaries over, the preacher proceeded to give a discourse mainly taken up with a violent and rambling tirade against drunkenness, and quarrels of the pugilistic sort! which his fair "audience"—both highly respectable—indignantly felt, and rightly so, to be altogether out of place in the circumstances. To add to the unpleasantness of the situation, the preacher in the course of his remarks, roaring loudly all the while in violent declamatory fashion anent the evils of intemperance, observed, to the amazement, and indeed confusion, of his congregation, that, while on a visit to a town in the south, lie had himself seen a drunken man careering wildly in the street in a semi-nude state! the reverend declaimer expressing this latter fact in language far from elegant. In ordinary circumstances, of course, the audience would have remained to thank the clergyman for the special privilege afforded them, but the reader need hardly be told they were only too glad to get away.

In addition to the Sunday services, there are in most Highland parishes, and chiefly in connection with the Free Church, week-day gatherings going under the name of "prayer-meetings," held fortnightly, and attended by the clergyman, one or more of his elders, and a few others, the audience present being chiefly old women. These prayer-meetings used to be pretty well attended some twenty years ago, but nowadays they seem less popular, and it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that at no distant period they will, as a distinct institution, cease to exist. Some of those that attend these week-day prayer-meetings are simpleminded and really pious people, representing a type of religious character not so numerous now as some fifty years back; but, though the absence of the particular type of character we have referred to near the commencement of this chapter, is becoming more and more marked, the bountiful compensating resources of the Ruler of the universe are providing another type equally good, though after another fashion. Accordingly, though the gatherings alluded to are not attended by a tithe of the numbers that flocked to them in other days, some thirty, and even fifteen, years ago, those that love the Highlands, and pray for their prosperity, need not suspect that such a change necessarily indicates any religious or moral declension among the people.

The religious event of the year, in a Highland parish, is the Communion season, or, as some of the people call it, "the Saycriemant time," which is more of an event, because, except in a very few cases, it takes place once a-year only. To the Communion in the Established Church, which, as in the Free Church, takes place but once a-year in the great majority of places, very few come from other parishes ; while of those that are present at the Free Church Communion, large numbers are from neighbouring parishes, not a few coming from places twenty and even forty miles away.

A remarkable feature in the case of the Free Church is the very small number of communicants in proportion not merely to the number of people attending the Communion, but also to the size of each separate congregation. There have been reasons advanced in explanation of this somewhat remarkable phenomenon, but they have been chiefly by interested persons, and are not edifying. In point of fact, the clergy must blame themselves for the paucity of communicants they now and then deplore. They long preached an unattainable ideal of fitness for Communion,—strangely forgetting that the ordinance is a means towards piety, and not an end. This manner of presenting the matter was long too prevalent in both the Free and Established Churches in Highland parishes, though not peculiar to them, since it was a common idea in very many other districts of the country. For some Sundays previous to the Communion, the clergy were in the habit of explaining the ordinance, and of specifying the qualities necessary for entitling persons to communicate worthily; and too often the effect of these haranguings was to impart an utterly distorted estimate, and to deter some sensitive but piously inclined individuals from making public profession of their faith in, and love to, a self-sacrificing perfect Example. On the Sunday of the Communion, in many cases, the scare was complete. What is called the "fencing of the tables"—telling from the pulpit what persons are and are not worthy communicants—was gone about in so unthinking a fashion as to actually frighten many sensitive souls. To this day this feature holds an unhappy sway. Congregations, accordingly, numbering in each case some five or six hundred people, can with difficulty command fifty communicants; and it is a specially noticeable and disappointing feature, that few, if any, under forty years of age sit at the Communion-table in the Free Church in an average Highland parish. The most of the few that do communicate are aged, the young and the greater number of the middle-aged remaining content with being spectators of the event.

The Communion season in a Highland parish is, in its main features, very much the same as it was thirty and even fifty years ago. The same number of days are occupied, the same order of service is employed, the same remarkable fewness of communicants is noticeable; and though it is understood that the number coming from distant parishes is not now quite so large, there is still a considerable flocking of people from far-away places.

It may be proper to observe that our remarks on this subject have almost exclusive reference to the Communion season in connection with the Free Church. The Communion takes place in the Established Church on the same day; but there are special features connected with the services in the Free Church, and the latter denomination being that to which the great majority of the people—and especially the natives—of the greater number of Highland parishes belong, we think it better to speak specially of the Communion season in the Free Church. Before we do so, however, it. may be well to mention one or two features special to the Established Church Communion season. Few go from one parish to another to the Communion in the latter Church. The Friday services, which we will shortly allude to, are almost unknown in the Established Church, though in a solitary instance what is called "a prayer-meeting" may take place on that day. "You have no Friday," is the rather odd way in which some Free Church people remind adherents of the Established Church of the absence of Friday services in the latter Church. We are not aware whether this lack-a-day observation is keenly felt by the "Moaderats." In the Established Church, the number of communicants, relatively to the size of the congregation, is very much larger than is the case in the Free Church. Certain people in the latter denomination have a way of explaining this last phenomenon by insinuating that the ideal of fitness for the ordinance is not so high as it ought to be among the local Established Church authorities, and that the Church discipline generally is not so strict as it should be. It is quite foreign to our purpose to inquire into the truth or otherwise of this allegation. It may be one of those strange comments which persons of different Christian denominations axe so fond — and fully as much in Highland parishes as in other places—of making regarding each other. Of course no intelligent unprejudiced observer of the community generally in a Highland parish, or any other parish, we suppose, will believe that there is any marked difference, religious or moral, between the adherents of the one Church and those of the other.

The Communion season begins on Thursday, and extends over five days, closing on Monday. A considerable number of strangers arrive in the place of meeting on Wednesday night; and we have heard it said, that so busy are some of the residents providing for the wants of their friends and acquaintance from a distance, that not a few of the former are prevented from attending the services. Thursday, the Fast-day, on the whole, is pretty strictly observed in most Highland parishes of to-day. A change, however, seems coming. The holiday practice, now so common in other places on the so-called Fast-day, is beginning to be adopted in the Highlands generally, and promises not long hence to be the order of the day.

Friday, strange to say, continues to be considered by many the most enjoyable day of the Communion season. Whereas on the Thursday, in many cases, the church can accommodate the worshippers, the Friday services almost invariably take place in the open air, and on this day those called "the Men" have the field very much to themselves. They do the greater part of the speaking, and Friday is popularly known as "the Men's" day. These persons, known in the Free Church only, are a class of people believed to be more or less eminent for piety, well versed in the Scriptures, and somewhat endowed with the speaking gift. On Friday a portion of Scripture is selected for remark, on which ordinarily about eight or nine of the Men make comments, with, as a rule, special reference to what are termed the marks or evidences of the Christian character, and more or less lengthened observations on the believer's experiences generally. During the time the Men are talking, the ministers—of whom as many as half-a-dozen are frequently assembled on these occasions—are sitting in the "tent" or wooden box which constitutes the open-air pulpit for the time being. One of the clergymen present is supposed to preside on the Friday, opening the proceedings, and, after the Men have said their say, summing up, so to speak, the varied comments made, and closing the proceedings; but to all intents and purposes Friday is exclusively set apart to give the Men an opportunity of holding forth, the term "the Men" being employed to distinguish them from the ministers, or usual speakers.

The Men have frequently been spoken of in some quarters sneeringly, in terms that would lead one to believe they are a spiritually proud, self-sufficient, fanatical, ignorant, and indeed hypocritical class of persons. It would be utterly unfair to apply all or any of these terms to them as a class. As in every other class of human beings, there will be found among them some that display one or other, or even more than one, of the uninviting features specified; but such sweeping denunciation of the Men as we have sometimes heard, is open to the suspicion of a prejudice against the Men themselves or the Church to which they belong. At the same time we can as little understand why, as a class, they should be considered pre-eminently good, as why they should be referred to in terms of sneering suspicion. There are among them, no doubt, persons of a type of character not more prevalent than could be wished,—simple-minded Christians, most eager to do what they believe to be right, and more diligent in watching themselves than in trying to detect faults in their neighbours. But among the Men there are also individuals with heart and soul very little, if at all leavened by the Gospel of light and love, and wofully void of the large-heartedness of the Christianity they profess and talk so much about. Among them likewise may be found unthinking disciples of an unhealthy mysticism—persons too prone to lose sight of Gospel morality in a superstitious, if not Pharisaic, desire to be reckoned models of what they consider religious orthodoxy. Some of them are self-sufficient, though it is proper to remember that the popularity they enjoy constitutes a strong temptation to this sort of weakness. Some of them are ignorant enough—but of course this cannot be said to be always a crime. Some of them are hypocritical—but, unfortunately, this fault cannot be considered peculiar to the Men. A few of them entertain rather uninviting views regarding the Supreme Being—but it can hardly be believed that in this respect the Men will be found to be alone. In short, they are men as well as the Men, with the ordinary characteristics of frail humanity, and, undoubtedly, to be judged of just like other people.

In the course of their Friday speaking, many of the Men make considerable efforts after saying smart things, and many of the audience greatly relish a peculiarity now and then indulged in by some of the men,---that, namely, of criticising the clergy, or, in a sort of humorously bantering way, assuming the office of monitors to their clerical superiors.

In the days when the contemptible sectarianism so long prevalent in Highland parishes was at its height, these Men were in the habit of saying very extraordinary things about the "Moaderats." Had the destiny of the latter been in the hands of some of the Men, it is very awful to contemplate to what sort of region the "Moaderats" generally would be consigned.

Many Free Church people—some regretfully, but quite as many with indifference—say that the institution of the lien shows unmistakable signs of breaking up; nor, indeed, is it easy to avoid the conclusion that, as a distinctive class, they will not long hence be unknown. Most—all, indeed—of the Men of to-day are aged, and it does not appear that, among the younger section of the Free Church community, anything like a sufficient number of probable aspirants exists to fill their places; nor will the impartial observer see reason to believe that any important interest will suffer from the blank.

Of the Saturday services there is nothing special to say. Then comes the Communion Sunday, or Sabbath as most Highlanders prefer to call it. The services usually begin about an hour before mid-day, and, for fully two hours up till that time, the roads and footpaths leading to the place of concourse are largely peopled by pedestrians, while vehicles of various sorts likewise do duty for the occasion. Many of the worshippers come a great distance, some from places forty miles away; and though some of those present on Sunday have been staying in the place during the other days, the great majority of the Sunday audience are people that come from their homes on the Sunday morning and return the same day. Many are seated long before the services begin. The place of meeting is usually on a slope or brae, at the foot of which stands the "tent" for the preacher. Though it is alleged that in the Highlands generally there is something like a falling off in the number attending these gatherings, the attendance in several instances is yet considerable, and more especially, of course, where there is the attraction of a popular preacher. The services begin in Gaelic—the English service takes place in the church—with the singing of a few verses of a psalm to the tune of Martyrdom or ColeshiIl, or some such like air ; and it is very pleasant to hear the quaint old music rising from the crowd, and gladdening the stillness of the surrounding solitudes. Generally speaking, the aspect of the crowd is devout, and, though it might be rash to take this as evidence of devoutness, there are many bent heads, communicants, especially, seeming cast down, if not gloomy. Among the young people of both sexes there are some not particularly devout-looking. Their .attention seems more taken up with themselves and with each other than with the preacher and the occasion of the gathering ; and some, old as well as young, show a restlessness, if not a levity, unfitting the solemnity becoming the event. But there are devout worshippers in the crowd, — some that have come at the bidding of a humble but earnest longing to hear the grand old story of the Gospel news, and to take part in a service they view with feelings of genuine humility and veneration.

The Sunday services usually occupy about six hours, the action sermon, as it is called, and the "fencing of the tables" taking up a large portion of this time; and, after Communion, there is a concluding address, usually of considerable length. At the conclusion of the Monday services, which do not call for special notice, small groups of people may be seen here and there, some probably commenting on what this or that preacher said, others gossiping on quite other matters, while many who make the Communion season the occasion of meeting relatives and friends, are wishing each other good-bye.

We have now referred to the more important features of the Communion season in a Highland parish of to-day. There are various reflections suggested by the event, such as the small number of communicants, and the danger of taking the large number assembled as an evidence of the prevalence of an earnest religious life; but into these and kindred questions the purpose of this book does not require us minutely to enter.

We might say a great deal regarding the theological opinions long prevalent in the far north, but we think the reader may gather from what has already been said what the general character of such opinions is, and how the less inviting of them are beginning to give way to brighter and more genial views. Some persons, imperfectly acquainted with the actual circumstances of the Highlands, entertain a wrong estimate of the religious state of these districts. As already indicated, we have long been accustomed to hear of the narrowness, self-righteousness, and bigotry of the Highlands; but while all these features might be met with up till within the last fifteen years even, in sad abundance, and to this day unhappily may be found in some quarters, the fact cannot be said to be peculiar to the Highlands. Besides, so far especially as the bigotry is concerned, justice to the Highland people requires us to bear in mind that, where the bigotry did, and to any extent yet does exist, the spiritual guides of the bigoted ones arc principally to blame for this unhealthy feature.

We might easily furnish the reader with highly discreditable proofs of the reign of bigotry and Pharisaism in the Highlands, and as easily might it be shown by what section of the people such bigotry was or is most generally shown, but this would serve no good purpose. We prefer to chronicle the fact that such bigotry is dying out, or, at least, that the growth of enlightened public opinion keeps it in check. By way of antidote to the regret one feels on viewing certain aspects of the ecclesiastical situation in the Highlands, during the period especially from fifteen to thirty years ago, it is pleasing to be able to know that in that period, as to-day, there were Highlanders unchilled by the blight of self-righteous bigotry. These latter (it is not worth asking whether they were Established Church or Free Church adherents) untroubled by questions regarding inspiration, technically so called, lived under the daily inspiration of a sense of duty to God and man. They did not, like silly fanatics, that even to-day may be met with, think there was no room on the path to a happy hereafter for any but those of their own denomination. With all the boasted progress of to-day, no better wish for the prosperity of religion in the Highlands can be cherished than that the simple-minded, generous, humble, and tolerant spirit that characterised the persons referred to, might have a wider and a growing sway in Highland parishes of to-day.


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