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The Cottars of the Glen
Chapter II

Occupation of the cottages-Fireside conversation—Family prayer-Sabbath observance-Striking incidents—Prayer meeting—Wonderful answer to prayer.

Saunders was by trade a wright, and had a small plot of ground attached to his cottage, which afforded grazing for two or three cows, and it was to them that Barbara and her daughters chiefly attended. The produce of their little dairy was disposed of to the cottagers who had barely a hut and a small garden at the back of it. The people generally wrought in the fields, as the neighbouring farmers and proprietors had need of them. Their labours yielded them but small profit; they fed on the humblest fare, and were clothed in the most homely attire. Their fuel for the winter season was prepared in the summer months, and consisted chiefly of wood and peats. The peats were dug in the mountain mosses, and spread out to dry in the sun, and then brought down, in what is called "sliding cars," to the cottages, and piled up in a huge stack at the end of the house, dry, and hard like bricks. And the scroggy wood in the vicinity, with which the valley abounded, afforded an abundance of withered branches and decayed stumps of trees, which, when mingled with the peats on the hearth, produced a blazing fire, which lighted up the interior, in a dusky day or in a dark winter night, like the sun at high noon. The gathering around the hearth in the long and chilly winter evenings, to enjoy the genial warmth, and to indulge in the social crack, was generally of a somewhat animated description. The tales of other times were circulated, and stirring incidents were rehearsed, that had been handed down from father to son. It was in this way that ancient traditions were preserved, and even stereotyped, on the popular memory, till they became ineffaceable, and their accuracy of recital indelible. Hence the precision with which old tales have been transmitted to us from remote times, without almost a single deviation in the narrative, so that their truthfulness can scarcely be questioned.

The tales, however, on which our men of the glen chiefly dwelt were the traditionary stories of the persecuting days. A. goodly proportion of the cottars of the glen were lineally descended from a covenanting ancestry, whose memory they warmly cherished, and the incidents of whose lives, which befel in those dismal times, when the peasant was hunted from his hearth by a ruffian soldiery, who visited every glen and nook, and haunt in the solitary wilds, they retailed with enthusiasm, and brooded over them till their hearts were fired with such a holy and patriotic zeal, that they were ready to seal, with even their own blood, the truths for which their fathers died. Hence the piety of the cottages, and more particularly of those of which Saundars was the patriarch. Of his cottage it may well be said, "the church that is in thy house." Family worship was a standing ordinance with Saunders. In the morning, the first thing was to convene the household for devotion, and a fervent prayer, preceded by reading a portion of the Scriptures, and praise, ascended to the sanctuary on high through the Great Intercessor, and the same was repeated in the evening. Saunders used to say that a family without domestic worship was like a house without a roof. The only mistake into which Saunders fell in this dutiful exercise, was an undue length in his prayers. The good man, in the ardour of his spirit, forgot himself, and sometimes to such an extent, that the household were ready to fall asleep on their knees. The exercise, in some cases, became rather a drudgery than a lively and spirited duty. This excess on the part of Saunders, however, was at length corrected. A pious friend of his, on a visit to the cottage, observed the mistake, and remonstrated with the good man on the obvious impropriety of the thing, and showed the danger there was of leading a whole family circle into sin, through wandering thoughts and weariness, and even slumbering in the devotional act which should be regarded as a cheerful duty rather than an irksome task. The worthy man saw his error and felt thankful, so that in praying in his family, and at sick-beds, he became doubly acceptable.

A great man has said, "nobody knows how much the devil is served by long prayers in the family and in the church." The truth is, that those who practise long prayers in public, preach rather than pray, and indulge more in a sort of addresses than in direct petition and supplication, and thus they pray the spirit of devotion out of the hearts of their hearers altogether. In secret prayer the case is entirely different. To this we can set no limits. Here a man is alone with God, and he may continue for hours, if he is so disposed, in pouring out his desires before the throne of grace with all thankfulness.

The keeping of the Sabbath was a matter of strict observance by the household of old Saunders. The peasantry throughout the district were generally observant of the sacred day, as far as abstinence from working and idle amusements were concerned. Their church-going tendencies, too, were creditable to them, and those who wonned in the distant glens and moorlands, seldom absented themselves from the house of prayer. In the fine days of summer, men and women, in their best attire, and barefooted, came tripping lightly along the moors, and over the mosses and tortuous footpaths, in groups, to worship with the multitudes wŁo forgathered in the house of God. True, all were not so disposed: many deemed the Sabbath a weariness, and said, When will it be over? and preferred sauntering in the open fields, or gossiping from house to house, and though many striking incidents occurred sufficient to deter the most thoughtless from a breach of the holy day of rest, yet not a few went on following their own pleasure on that day. The incidents which befel in the craggy lin, though they deterred the careless for a season, were ere long forgotten. The incidents were these:—A few careless youths had agreed to spend a Sabbath in the lin. They stole away unknown to their parents, and scrambling among the rocks, in the precipitous sides of the gorge, one of them missed his footing and fell from crag to crag, till he reached the bottom, and lay dead. A second, moving with precarious footing among shingly stones, had his leg broken; and the third, climbing a tree, whose branches projected far over the steep face of the escapement, was entangled among the branches, and, losing his balance, was suspended by his clothes right over the hideous descent, till he was rescued from imminent destruction by a person incidentally passing by. These were pointed lessons, and lessons of fearful import to all, the Divine providence bearing testimony, with something like unmistakeable precision, against the sin of Sabbath breaking.

Saunders was a strict Sabbatarian, and in this he was seconded by not a few of the pious households around him. There were not a few who were like-minded with him, and who combined in their witness-bearing against the desecration of the I^rd's-day. No worldly thing was permitted on that day—the whole time was spent in the public and private exercise of God's worship, except so much as was occupied in the works of necessity and mercy.

There was one thing that uniformly characterised the Sabbath evenings in the glen, and that was the holding of a prayer meeting in one or other of the cottages. To this meeting all the pious people gathered, and others, led by their example, frequently met with them. These meetings were Bethels for God's presence, and the souls of not a few were amply refreshed, and a spirit of devotion and religiousness was maintained among the people generally, which, otherwise, might have been extinguished, or at least brought to a very low ebb. Not a few were known to be brought to the Saviour in these meetings—backsliders were reclaimed, and the careless were overawed.

In those days books were scarce, and religious information was but scantily diffused. In our times the case is different, abundance of religious periodicals are in constant circulation, and we have advantages unknown to our forefathers. The books in common use in the rural cottages of those days were, such as Boston's Fourfold State, Guthrie's Christian's Great Interest, Brooks' Apples of Gold, the Marrow of Modern Divinity, the Pilgrim's Progress, and others of a kindred stamp, all which were eagerly devoured by the thinking portion of the community. Some of the volumes in use in those times—the identical volumes, dingy with smoke, and well thumbed by the painful readers—are still in existence; but their chief reading was the Holy Bible. This was to them the Book of books, the Divine Spirit revealing to them its sacred import, and leading them to the faith of it.

We have said that Saunders was a man of prayer. Secret devotion was his delight, and he had many remarkable answers to his supplications, an instance of which we may here give. On one occasion his house was broken into, and all the money which he had locked in his drawers was stolen. This happened on a sacramental Sabbath, when the whole household was at church. The thief watched his opportunity, having concealed himself among the underwood in the vicinity of the cottage, and when all was quiet, he crept from his hiding-place and entered by a little window on the back part of the house. The sum which he pilfered was considerable, and had been accumulated by industry and economy through sundry careful years. Who had done the deed could not be ascertained, and in process of time the thing was entirely forgotten. It happened many a long day after this, that the kind-hearted Saunders had become surety for a certain sum in behalf of a friend of his—a truly worthy man, whose circumstances had become embarrassed, and in order to help him out of his difficulty, Saunders adhibited his name to a document for the sum required. He fully believed, and so did his friend, that before the time the sum could be demanded, the amount would be made up, and payment made without trouble to any one. The case, however, turned out otherwise ; and the creditor, who was a stern and gripping person, intimated to honest Saunders that payment must be made promptly, and on the precise day and hour when the thing became due. Saunders now saw that he was a ruined man, everything that he had would be seized— cows, and pigs, and furniture, the implements of his trade, and all the timber and deals in his workshop, all must go together, for all would be required to implement the obligation. The worthy man was much distressed, and Barbara remembered the case of poor Eppie. There was none to whom they could apply for help, the sum was no trifle, and the creditor was relentless. The family were in great perplexity, but Saunders was a man of prayer, and had already obtained many seasonable answers to his supplications, for he had the fullest confidence in the hearer of prayer; and so, as they were one evening sitting a mournful group around the hearth, and brooding over their mishap, the venerable saint, with a load of care on his heart, remarked, that now was the time to make application to the God who had fed them all their life long, and whose were the gold and the silver, and the cattle on a thousand hills, and to ask him, in earnestness and faith, to extricate them from their difficulties. God, he said, had ways and means to bring about the thing desired, of which we have no conception. "Aye," said Barbara, "we have no other door at which we can at present knock but His, and to that door let us go in one company; He feeds the ravens when they cry, and how much more them that trust in Him." The family then, fell on their knees, and Saunders, as the head of it, simply, and in confidence, asked the Lord to deliver them, and at the same time leaving the matter entirely in His hands. They rose refreshed and comforted.

"I know not how it comes,'' said Barbara, "but somehow I feel as confident that an answer shall follow our prayers as if we had it at this moment. 'All things are possible with God.'" "Yes," added Saunders, "it will come, but I greatly wonder how? " The minds of the household were soothed, and they retired to rest, and slept calmly under the beneficent care of the great Father of all. It was now exactly eight days till the time of payment, and hour after hour passed, and day after day, but no help appeared. The last night came, and yet no response. "I begin to fear," said Marion, the eldest daughter, a sweet-tempered and pious young woman— "I fear," she timidly said, "that deliverance may not be forthcoming, and that it may be the will of our Heavenly-Father that we shall have to undergo this trial of being rouped out of house and hald, and if it shall be so, let us not repine, but acquiesce in the blessed will of Him who does all things well; for we may rest assured that all will work together for our good." "Yes," replied her mother, whose heart was full; "yes, and let us now remember that we are not like our forefathers of the bygone generation, who were driven by a persecuting soldiery from their homes, and scattered abroad over the deserts, without a place to lay their heads; and let this also be our comfort, that we are not driven from our sweet home for any ill deed of ours."

In this way did they converse, expecting that, on the morrow by mid-day, if succour did not arrive, they would be expelled from their little cottage, and be bereft of all that they possessed. They slept again, and morning dawned. The rising sun gilded the mountain tops with glorious light, and the sweet warblers in the dells carolled their song of praise, and all nature was glad. The family engaged in their morning devotions, and just as the prayer was ended—a prayer full of confidence in God—a gentle knocking was heard at the door. Saunders rose from his knees, and lifting the latch, there stood a tall swarthy man with somewhat of an agreeable aspect. "You," said he, "are Saunders Gray." "I am," replied Saunders;  "come in, and rest a little." "I cannot," replied the stranger, rather timidly; "but I would speak with you for a moment; you, of course, know nothing about me." "No," said Saunders," "I do not know you." "No matter," said the man, "only I hare a communication to make, which I request you, in a particular manner, to keep secret, otherwise it may go hard with me. Will you promise, then, to keep my secret?" "I will," said Saunders. "Then," added the man, "do you remember the housebreaking that occurred here many years ago, and how all your money was pilfered? Now, I am the man that did that deed, and I am now come to restore what I so wickedly took away. I have been prosperous in the world, but no thanks to the theft. I now give back the money, and double the sum for the injury I did to a virtuous household, and the sin I committed against God. The Lord has in mercy opened my eyes to perceive my sinful conduct, and has led me in penitence to that Saviour whose blood cleanseth from all sin. For a long time past I had frequently thought of coming to seek you, and to make what reparation I might for the heavy damage I did you; but it was not till Wednesday evening last week, that I fully determined to take this journey, and to take it at some risk, for I could not rest. I live many long miles from this, but a prompting within impelled me to set out at any risk; and I am happy that I have found you alive, and to place in your hands the sum that is justly your own. I ask your forgiveness, and the forgiveness of the God whose commandment I have broken." "O how wonderful is all this!" exclaimed the grateful Saunders; "truly He to whom we make our supplications is the hearer of prayer;" and then he explained the whole matter to the stranger, and how he had prayed at such an hour with his family, and which, it now appeared, was the very day and hour on which the man felt the irrepressible prompting to make an instantaneous restitution to the poor cottager whom he had so grievously wronged. Saunders took the man to his hut, and gave him hospitable entertainment and wise instruction, and then he retired as secretly as he came.

But this was not the whole of Saunders' good fortune on this same day—for as he was trudging along with a light heart to meet the creditor in the neighbouring town of Say-na-whair, where the matter was to be settled, he encountered an old acquaintance, a farmer once in the district, for whom Saunders had, in the way of his occupation, made ploughs, and carts, and harrows, and other agricultural implements, but who had become bankrupt, owing Saunders a good sum of money. This event had occurred a number of years before, when the composition offered was ten shillings a pound, and a legal discharge granted. This man had retired to another part of the country, where he had met with much success in business, and, being an honest man, whose conscience was not satisfied with a merely legal discharge, he had now returned to pay in full all his obligations to his old neighbours, and to Saunders among the rest. Our worthy wright was now comparatively rich, and this in answer to his prayers! The obligation was fully discharged.

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