the cool, sequestered vale of life,
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way."
The cursory reader of Scottish history is apt to form an erroneous estimate of the older clergy. On the surface they appear as gloomy and morose persons wedded to a stern routine of life, and inflexibly opposed to social enjoyment. The truth lies in precisely the opposite direction. Tenacious of sound doctrine, and deeply attached to simple forms of worship, the older clergy were, in private life, distinguished for their generous sentiments and exemplary urbanity. The great reformer, John Knox, was in the council-chamber of Queen Mary bold and uncompromising, because it behoved him there to maintain his right B of assembling the lieges for worship. He rebuked the maids of honour, who smiled as they saw him proceed to the Queen's presence, believing, as they did, that he was on his way to ruin. But Knox was in private life abundantly genial. He was a favourite in female society. By pious gentlewomen he was greatly beloved. When, an old man, he married, as his second wife, the daughter of a nobleman, his adversaries said he had obtained the lady's consent by sorcery. He approved of the Geneva system for the government of the Scottish Church, but he did not disapprove of Episcopal forms. He educated his sons at the University of Oxford.
In 1556, Knox was residing at Castle Campbell, Clackmannanshire, with Archibald fourth Earl of Argyle, the first Scottish nobleman who embraced the Protestant doctrines. A small eminence at the castle is pointed out as the scene where the Reformer dispensed the Holy Communion, on one of the first occasions that the ordinance, according to the Reformed method, was celebrated in Scotland. Castle Campbell, which rests upon a ridge of the Ochil hills, is approached through a wooded ravine. In this solitary dell, Knox had one day retired for meditation and prayer. He heard the voices of two young men from an adjoining footpath. They were engaged in animated conversation. Certain words reached the Reformer's ear, which indicated the subject of their colloquy. They were discussing the subject of Popery and Protestantism. One of the youths seemed to have cordially embraced the Reformed doctrines, the other was firmly wedded to the old faith. The debate grew warm. Keen expressions fell on both sides. They were about to be nearly related: the sister of the one in a few days was to become the wife of the other. This consideration did not weigh. The passions of both became excited. They talked loud, and mutually t indulged in severe menaces. The Reformer left his retreat, and silently followed them along the footpath. A blow was struck, which was immediately returned. The youths were violently grappling each other when the Reformed stood before them. Subdued by the gravity of his presence, they unlocked their grasps. The stranger counselled forbearance. He knew, he said, the subject of their quarrel. He recommended them to listen to John Knox, who was to preach on the Castle promontory next evening: till then they should part. By some persuasion he secured compliance with his request. The youths separated, to meet again as the stranger had suggested. True to their engagement, they appeared next evening in the congregation. The preacher proved to be the personage who had interrupted their hostilities. They listened with eagerness to his burning words. The Protestant was confirmed in his views; the Catholic was awakened to his errors. At the close of the service, both waited on the Reformer and entreated his blessing. They vowed mutual reconciliation in his presence. The Romanist was received into the Protestant Church.
George Buchanan is another of the Scottish Reformers whose name has been associated with violent measures and harsh ways. In reality Buchanan was a good-natured man and a hearty humorist. When he was discharging the duties of preceptor to the young James VI., he discovered his royal pupil's weakness in complying with every request presented to him. One day he handed two papers to the juvenile monarch, which he requested him to sign. James readily attached his name to the documents, without perusing either, or making any particular inquiry as to their contents. In one of the papers, he had formally transferred the royal authority to his tutor for the term of fifteen days. Buchanan now began to assume the state and importance of a sovereign. Being addressed by one of the courtiers with the usual salutation, when the young king was present, he announced that he should expect to be approached with more ceremony, since he had obtained the dignity of the crown. James, who began to suspect that his preceptor had suddenly lost his reason, asked for an explanation. "You are my subject," said Buchanan, "since you have devolved upon me the royal authority for fifteen days. There is the instrument," added he, "by which I have received from you my sovereignty"—placing the document before his pupil. Buchanan improved the occasion by administering to the inexperienced monarch a suitable lecture on his habitual rashness.
When Buchanan was old and beset with infirmities, he received a visit from his friends, Andrew and James Melville. They expected to have found him occupied with his great work, "The History of Scotland," which was then passing through the press. He was employed otherwise. When they entered his chamber, he was teaching his young serving-man to use the letters. "A b, ab; e b, eb," and so on, were the simple lessons which the instructor of the Scottish sovereign condescendingly taught the youth who served him. "You are not idle, sir, I perceive," said Andrew Melville, as he grasped the extended hand of his venerated friend. "Better than stealing sheep or sitting idle, which is as ill," quaintly responded the benevolent sage. A more interesting scene has not been presented in the life-history of any man of learning.
Few persons will be persuaded that Andrew Melville was of other than a saturnine cast of mind. That he was more prone to ebullitions of temper on public occasions than any of the other reformers may be admitted. He was more of a Nathanael than a courtier. The General Assembly had entrusted him to present a remonstrance to the King, representing their want of confidence in some of the royal councillors. Of these the most obnoxious was the Earl of Arran. When Melville was brought to the King's presence at Perth, and the remonstrance which he presented was read, Arran exclaimed, in a tone of menace, "Who dares subscribe these treasonable articles ?" "We dare," said Melville, advancing to the table, and there affixing his' signature to the document.
At an interview with the Regent Morton, Melville had expressed sentiments adverse to some portion of his public policy. In a moment of irritation, Morton exclaimed, "There will never be quietness in this country till half-a-dozen of you are hanged or banished." "Threaten your courtiers in that manner," said Melville: "it is the same to me whether I rot in the air or in the ground. The earth is the Lord's. I have been ready to give my life when it would not have been half so well expended. I have lived out of your country ten years. Let God be glorified; you cannot hang or exile his truth."
A General Assembly had been held at Cupar-Fife. The two Melvilles were deputed by the meeting to wait on the King at Falkland, to exhort him against acceding to certain measures of his council which were inimical to the Church. James Melville, who had been appointed spokesman, on account of his more courtly manners, began to set forth the object of the deputation. He had not proceeded far when the King, interrupting him, characterized the meeting of the Assembly as illegal and seditious. This was language which Andrew Melville could not tolerate, even from his sovereign. He rose up, and taking hold of the Bang's sleeve, called him, "God's silly vassal." He then sturdily set forth the claims of the Presbyterian Church, concluding,—"There are two kings and two kingdoms in Scotland. There is King James, the head of the commonwealth; and there is Christ Jesus, the head of the Church, whose subject James the Sixth is, and of whose kingdom he is not a king, nor a lord, nor a head, but a member." It is curious to find that from an interview which had a commencement so stormy, the King and Andrew Melville parted good friends.
In his old age, Melville was banished from his native land. He was expatriated on a charge of treason, craftily got up, because of his continued resistance to the royal measures respecting the Scottish Church. It is interesting to remark that the old man composed, in his seventy-fourth year, an ode on the marriage of the daughter of his constant friend, the Duke of Bouillon.
The most witty of the Scottish clergy at the Reformation period was David Ferguson, minister of Dunfermline. He was well known to the King, who, though he did not relish his strong views in favour of Presbyterianism, was otherwise well affected towards him. The Master of Gray had proved an apostate, by abandoning the Protestant doctrines for those of the Romish Church. It was reported among the more zealous Presbyterians that, since his apostasy, his house had often been shaken as by an earthquake. The King, when a boy of fourteen years, asked Mr. Ferguson whether he really believed that Gray's house was shaken. "Sir," said Ferguson, "why should not the Devil rock his ain bairns?"
Ferguson was appointed by the General Assembly to wait upon the King at Falkland, along with a deputation of the brethren. As James was understood to be extremely displeased by the proceedings of the Assembly, Ferguson commenced the interview by endeavouring to put the monarch in good humour. When the deputation was introduced, the King made an observation on the subject of surnames. "On that matter," said Ferguson, "I can reckon with the best of you in antiquity, for Fergus was the first king of Scotland, and I am Fergus'-son. But as you are an honest man, and have got possession, I will yield you my right." The King laughed heartily, and requested Ferguson to proceed. After hearing the complaint which he presented, James said impatiently, "There is no king in Europe would have endured what I have suffered." "I would not have you, sire," said Ferguson, "like any other king in Europe. Many of them are murderers, but you have differently been brought up." He then proceeded to commend portions of the monarch's metrical translations of the Psalms, and the interview terminated pleasantly.
James Guthrie, minister of Stirling, was a stanch Presbyterian. He was a leader of the Protesters, who denounced all who joined the royal army without subscribing the Covenant. This course was prejudicial to the interests of Charles II., who was then (1651) courting the favour of the Scottish Presbyterians, through whose assistance he hoped to obtain the Crown. With a view to mollify his strong views, Charles paid Guthrie a visit in the manse of Stirling. As the royal visitor entered the apartment, Mrs. Guthrie hastened to hand him a chair. Mr. Guthrie interfered. "Stop, my heart," said he, "the King is a young man, he can get a chair for himself." .Charles did not proceed further in making his request. When he came to power, some years after, he hanged Mr. Guthrie.
The celebrated Samuel Eutherford was extremely wedded to Presbyterianism. This is abundantly evident from his published works. His earnest piety and" ministerial devotedness secured him a wide reputation among many eminent persons in the sister Church of England, who could only regret the narrowness of his sectarian views. Archbishop Usher was, in the course of a tour, passing through Galloway, and being within a few miles of Rutherford's parish of Anworth, he was seized with a strong desire to proceed thither. He did so, and knocked at Rutherford's door. He was readily admitted. Representing himself as a tourist, he claimed permission to rest himself for a little. It was Saturday evening, and the hospitable minister would not permit the stranger to proceed further on his journey till the Sabbath was past. Rutherford adopted at family worship that evening a method which obtained long afterwards in Scottish households. "When he had read a chapter, he put questions to each member of the family on the leading topics which it contained. He likewise questioned the stranger. "How many commandments are there?" said Rutherford to his guest. "Eleven" replied the visitor. "No, you are wrong," said Rutherford; "there are just ten." "Did not our Saviour say," rejoined the stranger, "'A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another'?"* Rutherford was struck by the observation, and at once perceived that his visitor was familiar with the Scriptures.
Next morning the pastor of Anworth rose early, and, as was his habit on Sunday mornings, proceeded to a retired part of his glebe to meditate on his discourses. A narrow strip of plantation skirted this portion of the glebe, which was guarded by a sunk fence. From this fence Rutherford heard the voice of prayer. Concealed by the plantation and the upper boundary of the fence, he paused and listened. He recognised the voice of his guest, and remarked that his devotional expressions were singularly felicitous. At length the stranger began to pray fervently for the clergy and people under his care. Rutherford now perceived that he was entertaining a bishop. After breakfast, he repeated to his guest what he had heard, and informed him as to his belief concerning his rank. "I will tell you all," said Usher, who now revealed his name and rank, and expressed the satisfaction he experienced in gaining admission to the presence of one whose praise was in all the churches. "I perceive," said the Presbyterian minister, "the grace of God is not confined to the members of any particular denomination. Will you preach for me to-day?" The archbishop readily consented; and adopting the usual Presbyterian forms, preached an admirable discourse, the subject being the new commandment. Usher and his host remained attached friends during their mutual lives.
When William III. ascended the throne, at the Eevolution, he was chiefly guided in Scottish ecclesiastical affairs by the counsel of Principal Carstairs of Edinburgh. This excellent man, while deeply attached to the Presbyterian system, and though he had experienced personal torture at the hands of those who sought its overthrow, was most kindly disposed towards the deprived Episcopal clergy. One of their number, named Caddell, often called upon him Observing his clothes to be somewhat shabby, he ordered a suit for a person of his size. When Mr. Caddell next called, Carstairs put on the new garments, and proceeded to censure his tailor for misfitting him. "They are quite useless to me," he said; "they may, however, fit some of my friends. By the way, they are just your size! Try them on." Mr. Caddell complied, and the fit was found to be exact. The poor clergyman reluctantly accepted the suit. When he got home he found the sum of ten ponnds in one of the pockets, and on the paper enclosing it was written, "To the Rev. John Caddell, from his friend, William Carstairs."
It is much to be regretted that the liberality of Rutherford and Carstairs has not descended to our own times. We have heard of a dissenting minister —eminent as a divine, and possessing many estimable qualities—who, twenty years after the Disruption of 1843, assured his friends that he had not, since that event, shaken hands with any clergyman of the Established Church.
A late Cameronian minister at Denholm, Roxburghshire, concluded his prayers every Sunday morning by the petition, "Pull down papacy, prelacy, independency, will-worship, and all superstition!"
A more pleasing illustration of the "new commandment" may be related of an English clergyman of our acquaintance, who, in the course of a visit to Scotland a few years ago, preached in pulpits belonging to three different Presbyterian denominations. "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!"
In the year 1618, James VI. published his "Book of Sports." To render the Presbyterian system less rigid, the monarch commanded that certain sports, which he characterized as "lawful to be observed," should be played in the several churchyards every Sunday, at the close of divine service. John Ross, minister of Blairgowrie, adopted a novel method of withstanding the royal ordinance. He was a strong, athletic man, and seemed much interested in the recreations enjoined by the monarch. Football was selected by the parishioners of Blairgowrie from the list of "the Sunday games." When the services of the church were completed, Mr. Boss appeared among his people in the churchyard, and proceeded to join them in their sport. Throwing his coat on a tombstone, he said,—
"Lie ye there, Minister o' Blair, Till I, John Ross, Get a game at the ba'"
None of the assemblage kicked more eagerly at the football than did the reverend incumbent. But constant misfortune seemed to attend him, for every kick missed the ball and fell heavily on the ankles of those who stood near. Apologies were promptly tendered, and of course readily received, though every Sunday many of the players returned home halting. At length it was agreed that, on account of the minister's awkwardness, the games should be abandoned. This was the end contemplated by the ingenious divine.
Among the few members of the priesthood who, at the Reformation, espoused the Protestant doctrines, was John M'Vicar, priest of Inverary. He was a person of the mildest disposition, and abundantly tolerant. Unable to induce a considerable portion of his parishioners to embrace the Reformed tenets, he accommodated himself to their prejudices by continuing to administer to them the rites of the Romish Church. There remains at the manse of Inverary an octagonal stone, with two fonts, in one of which Mr. M'Vicar baptized the Protestant members of his flock, while the other contained holy water for the administration of the ordinance to those who adhered to the old faith.
St. Serf, or Servanus, an ecclesiastic of the sixth century, has a traditional celebrity for his piety and virtues. He was prior of a monastery on an islet in Lochleven, which retains his name. He made considerable journeys of a missionary character, in which he was attended by a pet ram, that shared his chamber and lay at his feet like a dog. When the saint was on a visit to Tillicoultry, accompanied by his favourite, the laird of the place, who had conceived an aversion to the churchman, seized the animal, put it to death, and had it prepared for his table. The narrative is thus given by Wyntoun, the metrical chronicler:—
"This holy man had a ram That he had fed up of a lam, And usit him to follow aye Wherever he passit in his way. A thief this sceppe in Ackien stal, And ete him up in pieces smal. When Sanct Serf his ram had miss'd, Wha that it stal was few that wist; On presumption, nevirtheless, He that it stal arrestit was; And till Sanct Serf syne was he broucht. That schiepe he said that he stal nocht;
And tharfor for to sweir an athe He said that he walde nocht be laith; But sune he blushit rede for schame, The schiepe it bletit in his wayme. Sa was he detectit schamefullie, And at Sanct Serf askit mercie."
The saint was not disposed to pass over the offence lightly. He uttered a prediction, that no heir born to the laird's estate of Tillicoultry should obtain possession of the inheritance. "Whatever truth may be bound up in the story, it is sufficiently remarkable that during the course of the last two centuries the estate of Tillicoultry has been possessed by thirteen different families, and that no heir born to it has become the actual owner. In the year 1780 the estate was entailed, a circumstance which seemed likely to discontinue the force of the prophecy, but the validity of the entail being questioned, it was, owing to the want of a single expression, found to be null. The result led to the sale of the property, and the disappointment of the heir-expectant.
There is another priestly legend connected with the hamlet of Tillicoultry. A large stone in the parish churchyard is associated with the following tradition:—The laird of the place had differed with one of the monks of Cambuskenneth Abbey respecting the payment of tithes. In the course of the dispute, the laird smote the holy father with his fist, and laid him prostrate. In process of time the laird died, and was interred in the churchyard.
On the morning after the funeral, the hand of the deceased, which had smitten the monk, projected from the grave, clenched as if in the act of giving a blow. The villagers were horrified by the spectacle; but at length some of them summoned courage to restore the laird's hand to its place in the coffin. But next morning the priest-smiting hand reappeared above the surface, clenched as before. Again was the disjoined arm placed in the coffin, but a third time it appeared above the surface. Some of the villagers had seen a band of evil spirits in the form of monks operating on the grave during the course of the night. A large stone was now placed above the resting-place of the deceased, and the hand was not further disturbed.
In the reign of James II., Peter Beaton, priest of Tullibody, professed an attachment to Martha, daughter of Wishart, laird of Myreton. The maiden, in the hope of his abandoning the monastic life, cordially reciprocated his affection; but the priest, lured by the hope of ecclesiastical preferment, proved insincere, and renounced the fair object of his vows. The maiden died of a broken heart. Shortly before her death she preferred the request that her remains might be enclosed in a stone coffin, to be placed near the door of the chapel by which her false lover entered to the performance of his priestly rites. The unworthy churchman saw the sarcophagus, and, reflecting on his falsehood, became distracted; he died in the ravings of insanity.
The vicar of Dollar, Dean Thomas Forret, was one of the first martyrs who suffered under the regime of Cardinal Beaton. With four others, he was executed at Edinburgh on the 29th February^ 1539. At his trial, which was conducted at a council held by the Cardinal, he was accused of preaching to his parishioners—a duty then solely devolving on the friars, of explaining the Scriptures in the vernacular tongue, of instructing his flock in the Decalogue, and of teaching them to repeat the Lord's Prayer in their own language. During his examination, Crichton, bishop of Dunkeld, remonstrated with him on the impropriety of his preaching every Sabbath, as a similar amount of duty might be required of the bishop. Crichton added that he himself had succeeded indifferently well, though he contented himself with his "Portuis" and Pontifical; and that he could thank God he had lived many years and had never read either the Old or New Testaments.
John Gray, who became minister of Dollar after the Revolution, was, on account of his opulence and integrity, entrusted by his parishioners and neighbours with the care of their savings. Owing to some circumstance his credit had become doubtful. Learning that a run was to be made upon him which he felt unable to satisfy, he had recourse to an ingenious device to restore his reputation. Along the wall of his deposit room he arranged a number of pewter pint measures, filled with sand nearly to the brim. Into the small space left at the mouth, he placed a number of gold and silver coins, so that the measures seemed full of the precious metals. A few of them really were filled with coins; and so, when the first applicant requested his deposits, he was told he should have them, and forthwith one of the vessels was emptied on the table. The rustic, seeing such a display of money, confessed that he had been misled by a rumour which he now perceived to be groundless, and he returned his deposits to the minister's keeping. This had the effect of entirely restoring confidence in Mr. Gray.
In smuggling times, the clergyman was often consulted as to the best means of avoiding detection from the officers of excise. "What am I to do, sir, if the gauger comes?" said a smuggler to his minister, "for ilka drap is i' the hoose." "Just tell the truth," said the minister, "and leave the event to Providence." The smuggler consented very reluctantly; "for," said he, "if the gauger tak's the drink, I'm a ruined man." In a few days, as the smuggler had anticipated, an exciseman entered his dwelling, and demanded where he had concealed his contraband merchandise. "Weel, I'll jist tell the plain truth," said the smuggler, "every drap is in a big hole under the bed." "You rascal," said the exciseman; "if it had been there you would not have been so ready in avowing it." So the officer searched the entire premises save the spot indicated, and then left grumbling that he had not effected a detection. Next day the smuggler waited on his minister to express
his gratitude for his counsel. "I tauld the truth, sir," said he, "jist as ye required, an' the gauger wadna believe me. Had I dune onything else, nae doubt a' had been deteckit. I shall noo, sir, aye tell the truth, even to the gauger; for it is, as you said, best for a body i' the end."
A clergyman in the North of Scotland was reproving a parishioner for his habits of intemperance. He represented to him that whisky was his greatest enemy. "Are we not told in Scripture to love our-v enemies," said the irreverent bacchanalian. "Yes, John," responded the minister; "but it is not said we are to swallow them."
The Duke of Queensberry had invited his parish minister to dinner, to meet the Earl of Airlie, who was on a visit to Drumlanrig Castle. The minister was very facetious, and Lord Airlie, who had not met him before, was much interested in his conversation. As it was Saturday evening, the minister begged to be allowed to depart early. But as he rose to leave, the Earl begged he would remain a little longer,— "Just another glass, and then—" said his lordship. He was repeatedly detained with these words, and was only able to accomplish his retreat when the Duke and his guest were unable longer to delay it. The minister was much disgusted by the means taken to prevent his departure and with the excessive convivialities of the castle, and he therefore prepared a discourse for next morning's service on the evils of intemperance. When he had preached half
an hour, he requested the precentor to turn the pulpit sand-glass in these words, "Another glass, and then—" The discourse was not lost upon, two of his hearers, for whose benefit it was especially intended.
After the deep religious enthusiasm of the seventeenth century had subsided,' two parties arose in the Scottish Church. One of these retained the evangelical sentiments of the Reformers, the other upheld a decent conformity to the moral duties as mainly constituting the plan of salvation. Towards the close of last century, the collegiate ministers of the High Church of Edinburgh were leaders of the opposing parties. Dr. Hugh Blair, an eloquent preacher and accomplished rhetorician, set forth in charming words the excellency of virtue, and insisted on strict attention to the requirements of the law of morals. His colleague, Dr. Robert Walker, powerfully set forth the doctrine of the Atonement as the only ground of the sinner's acceptance. One Sunday morning, Dr. Blair preached on his favourite theme —the beauty of virtue, when he used the following apostrophe, "O Virtue, if thou wert embodied, all men would love thee!" The afternoon's service was conducted by Dr. Walker, who, in the course of his sermon, used these words, " Virtue has been embodied. Did all men love her ? No, she was despised and rejected of men, who, after defaming, insulting, and scourging her, led her to Calvary, where they crucified her between two thieves."
The Rev. Mr. Gordon, minister of Alvie, harboured some rebels, who, escaping from the battle of Cullo-den, threw themselves on his bounty. For the alleged offence, he was brought before the Duke of Cumberland, at Inverness. Mr. Gordon, on being ushered into the Duke's presence, said, "I am straitened, your Eoyal Highness, between two contrary commands, both proceeding from high authority. My heavenly King's Son commands me to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to give meat and drink to my very enemies, and to relieve to the utmost of my power all objects in distress indiscriminately that come in my way. My earthly king's son commands me to drive the houseless wanderer from my door, to shut my bowels of compassion against the cries of the needy, and to withhold from my fellow mortals in distress the relief which is in my power to afford. Pray, which of these commands am I to obey?" "By all means," replied the Duke, "obey the command of your heavenly King's Son. Your character is very different from what it has been represented. Go home in peace, and act conformably to the benevolent spirit of that Gospel which you are professedly employed to preach and to explain."
In his memoir of the Bev. William Yeitch, Dr. M'Crie relates the following narrative:—"When Lord Minto visited Dumfries, of which Mr. Veitch was minister, after the Revolution, he always spent some time with his friend, when their conversation often turned upon the perils of their former life. On these occasions his lordship was accustomed facetiously to say, ' Ah! Willie, Willie, had it no been for me the pyots* had been pyking yonr pate on the Nether Bow port;' to which Yeitch replied, 'Ah! Gibbie, Gibbie, had it no been for me ye would hae been yet writing papers for a plackf the page.'" The friends had indeed been good mutual benefactors. Veitch was condemned to die under the tyrannical government of James VII., and the successful efforts of his friend in procuring his freedom tended to his own elevation from the place of an attorney to a seat on the bench as a lord of session.
Mr. Alexander Peden, the famous Covenanter, with some of his adherents, had been hotly pursued by the dragoons of the Government. Nearly exhausted by the rapidity of the flight, Peden ascended a small hill, and prayed thus,—"O Lord, this is the hour and the power of Thine enemies. They may not be idle; but hast Thou no other work for them, than to send them after us? Send them after them to whom Thou wilt gie strength to flee, for our strength is gane. Turn them about the hill, O Lord, and cast the lap o' Thy cloak over puir Saunders, and thir puir things, and save us this ae time, and we will keep it in remembrance, and tell to the commendation of Thy guidness, Thy pity and compassion, what Thou didst for us at sic a time." A cloud of mist arose, which enabled Peden and his party to escape. Meanwhile orders arrived that the dragoons should proceed in quest of Renwick and another party of Covenanters.
Mr. Thomas Mitchell, minister of Lamington, adopted a quaint phraseology in his pulpit services. In praying for suitable harvest weather, he expressed himself thus: "O Lord, gie us nane o' your rantin', tantin', tearin' winds, but a thunnerin', dunnerin', dryin' wind.'"
Mr. James Oliphant, minister of Dumbarton, was especially quaint in his public prelections. When reading the Scriptures, he was in the habit of making comments in undertones — on which account seats near the pulpit were much prized, and best filled. It is said, in reading the passage of the possessed swine running into the deep and being there choked, he was heard to mutter, "Oh, that the devil had been choked too!" Again, in the passage as to Peter exclaiming, "We have left all and followed thee!" the remark was, "Aye boasting, Peter, aye bragging; —what had ye to leave but an auld crazy boat and maybe twa or three rotten nets ?"
Mr. Robert Shirra, of the Secession Church, Kirkcaldy, was one of the most remarkable of the old school of Scottish divines. With a dignified presence, he combined a vigorous intellect, and a quaintness of speech, which rendered him an extraordinary favourite with the people. Many odd stories have been, without much foundation, associated with his name. Those which follow are unquestionably genuine.
When the first outburst of the first French revolution induced many unsettled and ignorant persons in this country to dream of a universal reign of liberty and equality, several members of Mr. Shirra's congregation waited upon him to obtain an expression of his views. Perceiving that his visitors were carried away by the prevailing sentiments, Mr. Shirra declined to give an immediate reply. The subject he said was so important, that he would study it fully and deliberately before venturing on a deliverance. When his opinion was matured, he would publicly declare it from the pulpit. Probably he might do so on the following Sunday.
The deputation were delighted with the minister's reception, and the kind promise which had been elicited. News of the intended discourse on liberty, equality, and fraternity, spread rapidly in the district. Next Sunday Mr. Shirra's place of worship was densely crowded, hundreds of the working-classes present being full of expectation.
The service proceeded in the usual manner. Having preached an earnest evangelical discourse, Mr. Shirra closed the Bible and spoke as follows:—"My friends, I had a call from some of you the other day, desiring to know my opinion on liberty and equality, when I told you if you came here to-day, I might let you know. Now, since I had your visit, I have travelled in spirit all over the universe, and I shall just tell you what I have seen in my travels. I have travelled over the earth, its frozen and burning zones, mountains and valleys, moist places and dry, fertile lands and sandy deserts, and I have found men and children, big and little, strong and weak, wise and ignorant, good and bad, powerful and helpless, rich and poor. No equality there! I have travelled through the sea, its depths and shoals, rocks and sandbanks, whirlpools and eddies, and I have found monsters and worms, whales and herrings, sharks and shrimps, mackerel and sprats, the strong devouring the weak, and the big swallowing the little. No equality there! I have ascended to heaven with its greater and lesser lights, suns and satellites, and I have found thrones and dominions, principalities and powers, angels and archangels, cherubim and seraphim. No equality there! I have descended into hell, and there I have found Beelzebub, the prince of devils, and his grim counsellors, Moloch and Belial, tyrannizing over the other devils, and all of them over wicked men's souls. No equality there!
"This is what I have seen in my travels, and I think I have travelled far enough; but if any of you are not altogether satisfied with what I have told you, and wish to go in search of liberty and equality yourselves, you may find them somewhere that I have not visited. You need not travel the same road that I have done, for I can tell you positively you will not find what you want on the earth, neither in the sea, neither in heaven, neither in hell. If you think of finding them anywhere else, you may try. Meanwhile I have given you all the information I can-It rests with you to make proper use of it."
Indecorous conduct in church was reproved by Mr. Shirra with a freedom which was characteristic of the earnestness of his character. Seeing a young person asleep in the gallery, he called on those sitting near to arouse him; "For," said he, "should he fall down dead as the young man did in St. Paul's time, he may lie dead for me; I am not able like Paul to raise him to life again." On another occasion, a member of a volunteer corps, who came in rather late, was walking about in search of a seat, and, as Mr. Shirra supposed, to create attention to his new uniform. "Sit down, man," said Mr. Shirra, "we'll see your new breeks when the kirk skails."
Trade had been unusually brisk among the weavers of Kirkcaldy, and they had consequently been in the habit of drinking late on the Saturday evenings— sometimes sallying forth on the Sunday morning, to the great annoyance of the sober and serious inhabitants. In his prayer after sermon one Sunday morning, Mr. Shirra, in. allusion to the unhappy custom, spoke thus:—"O Lord, while we recommend to Thy fatherly care and protection all ranks and conditions of men, we in a particular manner pray for the check-and-ticking weavers of Kirkcaldy. In Thy wisdom and mercy be pleased to send them either mair sense or less siller."
For a period the Kirkcaldy fishermen had been suffering from the scarcity of fish. On the return of better times, Mr. Shirra expressed himself thus in his public prayers,—"Oh Lord, we desire to offer our grateful thanks unto Thee for the seasonable relief which Thou hast sent to the poor of this place from Thy inexhaustible storehouse in the great deep, and which every day we have called upon our streets —Fine fresh herrings, sax a penny, sax a penny!"
One Sunday, owing to the sultry state of the weather, several of the congregation exhibited symptoms of drowsiness. After a pause, sufficient to command attention, Mr. Shirra exclaimed, "Hold up your heads, my friends, and mind that neither saints nor sinners are sleeping in the other world." This had the effect of arousing the majority, but one member of the flock was so overpowered that he began to snore. Mr. Shirra again paused, and called out, " John Stewart, this is the second time that I've stopped to wauken you; but I give you fair warning, that if I need to stop a third time, I'll expose you by name to the congregation !"
During the morning service the precentor had intimated that the prayers of the congregation were requested on behalf of David Thomson, a member of the church. "Is David very ill, Henry?" said Mr. Shirra, looking over the pulpit, to the precentor. Having obtained a reply that he was so, he said, "Weel, weel, let's pray for him." He then proceeded to utter in prayer those words of the 132nd Psalm,—"Lord, remember David and all his afflictions."
Expounding the 116th Psalm, when he came to the eleventh verse, "I said in my haste, All men are liars," he quaintly remarked, "Ay, ay, David, you would not have required to make any apology for the speech had you lived in these days; you might have now said it quite at your leisure."
Quoting those words of the 119th Psalm, "I will run the way of Thy commandments, when Thou shalt enlarge my heart," Mr. Shirra proceeded, "Well, David, what is your first resolution? 'I will run! Eun away, David, who hinders you? What is your next? 'I will run the way of Thy commandmentsBetter run yet, David. What is your next? "I will run the way of Thy commandments, when Thou shalt enlarge my heart' No thanks to you, David; we could all run as well as you with such help."
The reading by the precentor, or leader of psalmody, (hitherto it can scarcely be dignified by the name of music) is frequently far from being elegant. It was the custom for him to read the requests for the prayers of the congregation. In fishing villages at certain seasons a usual but very equivocal request ran thus:—"A man going to see (sea) his wife requests the prayers of the congregation." On one occasion a precentor, by a reversion of an ill-written billet astonished the congregation by reading, "A man requests the prayers of this congregation in great distress." So necessary was this introduction to prayer, that in Glasgow for upwards of ten years in all churches on every Sabbath there was announced, "Janet Shaw requests the prayers of the congregation." Janet was long bedridden, and thus formed a stock-piece for the precentor.
A clergyman was preaching in a church where there was a choir who monopolized the psalmody. He listened patiently to a very complex piece of music; when it was finished, he rose and solemnly said, "Now that the land have praised themselves, let the congregation unite with me in praising the Lord," and gave out the 100th Psalm, leading the tune himself, in which the congregation heartily joined.
A clergyman was accustomed to make use of scientific terms which his congregation did not understand. He was waited on by a deputation, and requested when he used any such terms in future he would be pleased to add an explanation. On the following Sunday he used the term hyperbole, when he added, "As agreed on, I now beg to give an apt illustration of this term. Were I to say that at this moment the whole of my congregation are sound asleep, this certainly would be an hyperbole; but if I say that one-half are in this abject condition, this would be no hyperbole, but the truth." On the following day the deputation returned and begged he would in future abstain from explanations of abstruse terms, which the congregation would endeavour thereafter to obtain from a dictionary.
A rural clergyman who had all his lifetime been a martyr to toothache, in lecturing on the narrative of the fall of man, argued that no more convincing proof could exist of the truth that man sinned and fell by eating the forbidden fruit than that the teeth from, infancy to old age were above all the rest of the body the seat of painful disease.
Dr. Ritchie, Professor of Divinity at Edinburgh, was formerly minister of Tarbolton, Ayrshire. In course of his ministrations he happened one Sunday to expatiate on the profanity of using oaths in conversation. A resident landowner who was present was much addicted to the practice, and so conceived that the minister had prepared his discourse purposely to censure him. He sent for Dr. Ritchie to his residence, and accused him of referring to his private habits in the pulpit; adding, that unless the doctor would promise to abstain from such a course, he would not again enter the parish church. Dr. Ritchie calmly replied, "If you took to yourself what I said against swearing, does not your conscience testify as to its truth ? You say you will not enter the church till I cease to reprove your sins; if such is your resolution, you cannot enter it again, for which of the commandments have you not broken?" The earnest firmness of the reply subdued the com-plainer, who thereafter endeavoured to overcome the evil habit which he had acquired.
Dr. Samuel Charters, minister of Wilton, was remarkable for a peculiar naivett in administering reproof or repressing insolence. A boorish parishioner, who had conceived an aversion to him, and so left his church, told him that he had gone to a place of worship where he heard "the true gospel preached." "I am glad to hear/' said Dr. Charters, "that one of your stamp goes anywhere."
A minister who was peculiarly dry in his delivery, and therefore little attractive to his congregation, one day was about to be fairly coughed down. At once he stopped, and said, "This position I think I can best illustrate by a beautiful story." The tumultuous cough instantly was hushed. After a pause, the minister proceeded, "I have no story to tell other than I was telling you, and merely wished to find out whether you had the power to stop coughing if you pleased, and now I see you have the power, I proceed with my discourse."
A clergyman who was a hard labourer in his glebe, and when so occupied dressed in a very slovenly manner, was one day engaged in his potato field, when he was surprised by the rapid approach of his patron in an open carriage, with some strange ladies, with all of whom he was to dine in the afternoon. Unable to escape in time, he drew his bonnet over his face, extended his arms covered with his tattered jacket, and passed himself off unnoticed as a potato bogle.
There was a dinner-party at Douglas Castle, when Lord Douglas had invited Dr. M'Cubbin, his witty parish minister, to meet Lord Braxfield, the noted judge, and some other guests. Braxfield was disappointed to find that there was no claret, and asked his lordship whether he had got any in his cellar.
"There is," said the peer, "hut the butler tells me it is unsound." "Let's pree'd," said Braxfield. It was produced and was universally pronounced to be excellent. "I propose," said Braxfield to Dr. M'Cubbin, "since a fama clamosa has gone forth against this wine, that you absolve it." "Your lordship is a good judge in civil law," replied the doctor, "but you are not so familiar, I remark, with the laws of the Church. We never absolve till after three several appearances." The claret of the noble host suffered accordingly.
Mr. William Leslie, minister of St. Andrews, Lhanbiyde, Morayshire, was addicted to practical jesting. An idle and useless creature in his parish having troubled him for a certificate to enable him to supply the loss of a horse and cow, Mr. Leslie wrote as follows:—"To all his Majesty's loving subjects who can feel for a fellow-sinner in distress. I beg to certify that the bearer, W. I-, is the son of my old bellman, a man well known in this neighbourhood for his honest poverty and excessive sloth; and the son has inherited a full share of the father's poverty, and a double portion of his indolence. I cannot say that the bearer has many active virtues to boast of; but he is not altogether unmindful of scriptural injunctions, having striven, and with no small success, to ' replenish the earth,' though he has clone but little to subdue the same. It was his misfortune to lose his cow lately from too little care and too much bere chaff; and that walking skeleton which he calls his '.horse,' having ceased to 'hear the oppressor's voice or dread the tyrant's load/ the poor man has now no means of repairing his loss but the skins of the defunct and the generosity of a benevolent public, whom he expects to be stimulated to greater liberality by this testimonial from, thine with respect, &c., Will. Leslie."
Dr. Alexander Webster, of Edinburgh, was a person of remarkable merit and corresponding distinction. From a design which he prepared the New Town of Edinburgh was laid out and built. He devised and established the Ministers' Widows' Fund. He procured the first enumeration of the inhabitants of the different parishes. He was leader of the evangelical party in the General Assembly, and was no inconsiderable poet.
Dr. Webster was indebted for his entry into public life under favourable auspices to a prosperous marriage. The circumstances connected with the event are sufficiently interesting. He was originally one of the collegiate ministers of Culross. When discharging the duties of the pastorate in that parish, a young gentleman solicited him to intercede on his behalf with a young lady of the neighbourhood, of whom he had become enamoured, but who had pertinaciously refused his addresses. This young lady was Miss Mary Erskine, daughter of Colonel Erskine of Alva, and a near relative of the Earl of Dundonald. Mr. Webster undertook to intercede for his friend, and on an early day called on the lady for that purpose. His eloquence was fruitless, Miss Erskine Jl D assuring him that her determination respecting the object of his mission was unalterable. She added, " Had you spoken as well for yourself, perhaps you might have succeeded better." The hint was not lost. Mr. Webster had acted honestly and pleaded strenuously on behalf of his friend; and he felt himself free, on his next interview with the lady, to speak in his own cause. Miss Erskine, as she had indicated, was " nothing loth" to his new proposals, and afterwards agreed, as her relatives would not yield their consent, that the marriage should be solemnized in private. Several songs were written on the occasion. One on the subject of his courtship, composed by the bridegroom himself, appeared in the Scots Magazine in November, 1747. These lines form the first stanza:—
"O how could I venture to love one like thee? And you not despise a poor conquest like me! On lords thy admirers could look wi' disdain, And knew I was naething, yet pitied my pain. You said, while they teased you with nonsense and dress, ' When real the passion the vanity's less;' You saw through that silence which others despise, And while beaux were a-talking read love in my eyes."
Dr. Webster was a diligent student, but at the close of the day rejoiced to visit some of his more intimate ministerial friends, and if convenience suited to remain with them to supper. From these suppers he occasionally returned home somewhat late, considerably to the annoyance of his helpmate. He found that he was more readily excused when he had been in the society of his clerical brother, Dr. John Erskine, who was with Mr. Webster a decided favourite. But Dr. Erskine chanced to hear that he had been made a stalking-horse, and so resolved to have a practical joke at his friend's expense. When Dr. Webster next came to supper, Erskine made excuse that he had to go out, but insisted that his friend should remain and take supper with Mrs. Erskine. He proceeded direct to Dr. Webster's residence, and making as it were an incidental evening call, was invited by Mrs. Webster to remain to supper. He accepted the invitation, but took leave of Mrs. Webster long before Dr. Webster's usual hour of returning from the supper-table. On returning to his house he found his friend quite at home, regaling himself over his toddy. When Dr. Webster at last reached his own dwelling he was, as usual, asked by his wife where he had been supping. "I have been down at Dr. Erskine's," was his reply. "Ah! I have found you out at last," said the indignant gentlewoman; "you were not at Dr. Erskine's; and I believe you have never been any of these weary evenings at Dr. Erskine's. I'm a poor deceived woman! The doctor was here, and took supper with me, but left at reasonable hours, as every person of proper conduct ought to do." Fearing that the storm which he had awakened might become serious, Dr. Erskine called at Dr. Webster's early next morning, and explained all. Mrs. Webster would only be reconciled on extracting from her husband the promise, that on every occasion when he supped with Dr. Erskine, he would bring a certificate of the fact.
Dr. Erskine was remarkable for his absence of mind. Meeting his wife in the Meadows, she stopped; he did so too. He bowed, hoped she was well, and again doing obeisance, walked on. When he returned home he informed Mrs. Erskine that he had met a lady in the Meadows, who seemed to know him, but that he could not make out who she was.
A newly appointed clergyman, very critical in his phraseology, had a kirk officer not much learned in philology. One night on leaving the session-house or vestry, John asked the minister if he would "put out the candle." "Put out!" replied the minister; "never say put out, but extinguish the candle." "Then," added the man, "extinguish always stands for put out." "Always," said the minister. Next Sabbath, one of the dogs forming part of the congregation took umbrage at the length of the exhortation, and began to yelp. John, rising from his official seat, astonished the congregation by the authoritative command, " Some one will be pleased to extinguish that dog!"
The celebrated Mr. John Brown of Haddington had courted a young lady upwards of six years. At length he contrived to overcome his natural diffidence, and spoke to her confidentially. "Janet, my woman, we've been acquainted now for six years," said he, "an'—an' I've never got a kiss yet. D'ye think I may take one, my bonnie lass?" "Just as you like, John," was the lady's answer; "only be becoming and proper wi't." "Surely, Janet," said Mr. Brown; "we'll ask a blessing." The blessing was asked and the kiss taken. "O woman, but it's gude," said the worthy minister; "we'll noo return thanks." In less than six months John and Janet were man and wife.
One clergyman meeting another, the conversation turned on the feeding of swine — no small concern in the economy of the Scottish manse. The one startled the other with the apparently rude remark, "Speaking of swine, how is your wife?" No insult was intended. The gentlewoman was widely famed for swine-culture.