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The Anecdotage of Glasgow
Rev. Dr. William Anderson and the Cameronian elder

THE Rev. Dr. William Anderson used to tell the following incident with much interest.

"I had just," he said, "been licensed to preach, and was despatched to Kirkintilloch to officiate on the coming Sabbath. The mode of conveyance was by the night canal boat, leaving Glasgow at nine o’clock. The cabin of these vessels was so narrow that the knees of passengers sitting opposite touched. In the centre was a long narrow table, at the stern end of which sat a fiddler, whose business it was to fill up the gaps between the political and theological discussions, which often made pleasant those otherwise weary night voyages.

Opposite me sat an old grey-headed man, the whole make up of whom indicated a Cameronian elder of the ‘straitest sect,’ and on my right sat a young man, going to the same place, the twinkle of whose eye seemed to say, let me have some fun; and hardly had the boat left the wharf till he looked over to his old friend, and said:

"‘Ay, David, man, say ye ha’e been in Glaskie, ha’e ye? It’s nae a journey that everybody taks; and abune a’, wha wid ha’e expected tae see you there!’

Weel, ye see,’ replied David, ‘ma dochter got married tae a lad there, and they wad ha’e me to gang there and see them.’

"‘Weel, David, an’ what think ye o’ Glaskie?’

"‘Oh, man, it’s an awfu’ place; it’s abune a’ ma thochts. I had nae idea o’t, an’ I’m jist gled to get awa’ hame again.’

'Weel, David, an’ wha did ye hear preachin’?’

"‘Oh, ye ken I gaed tae oor ain place, o’ course; we ha’e a kirk in Glaskie, ye see.’

"But ye dinna mean to tell me, David, that ye didna gang to hear Thomas Chalmers, do ye?’

"‘Aweel, aweel (scratching his head as if in a dilemma), I’s no say that I didna, but then, do ye see, it was on a Thursday nicht, an’ I didna think there wad be meikle sin when it wisna the Sabbath Day; but, man, he’s an awfu’ man that! I never heard a man like him, for I was sittin’, whan, and before I kent whar I was, I got up on my verra feet, streetchin’ o’er the buikboard, wi’ my e’en wide starin’, an’ my mouth wide open, feared I wad lose a word. But ca’ ye yon preachin’? Na, na, it was rank, black prelacy; man, he read ilka word o’t; na, na, nane o’ that abomination for me—na, na.’

"I thought," says Dr. Anderson, "I might have a little banter with the old man also, and so I said:

"David, you need not be so hard against prelacy, or read sermons, for ye know it is a fact, which you cannot deny, that ye read prayers yourself every morning.’

With a smile of contempt, mixed with pity, the old man fixed his eyes on me, and, in a solemn tone, said:

"‘Laddie, ye’ll no ken wha I am, or ye wadna speak that way; for onybody that kens me, that has been an elder o’ the Cameronian Kirk o’ Kirkintilloch for abune thirty years, wadna set sic a sin to my door; na, na.’

"But, David, I have good ground for what I have said, and I know that you do read prayers every morning.’

"At this reiterated charge the old man’s wrath began to wax warm, and rising to his feet he exclaimed in a passion:

It’s a lee! It’s a lee! Whaever told ye that I carena, but it’s a black lee.’

"Feeling that I had, perhaps, led him far enough, I said:

"Be calm, David, and answer me a question. Do ye not read the Psalms of David every morning?’

"‘To be sure I do; but what has that to dae wi’ the lee?’

"‘Weel, David, are not David’s Psalms the best prayers ever written?’

"The face of the old Cameronian relaxed into a smile, as he sat down and exclaimed:

"‘Ay, laddie, but ye ha’e caught me noo; ye ha’e caught me noo.’

"‘But, David,’ I continued, ‘I am afraid that, from the way you have been talking, you do not know what a sermon means.’

I shud think,’ he rejoined, ‘I shud think that a man who has been an elder o’ the Cameronian Kirk abune thirty years shud ken what a sermon means, if onybody kens.’

"‘Well, David, let me tell you that a sermon is a proclamation. Now you know that when the King makes a proclamation, it is written on paper and read at the Cross, and that it is not a proclamation unless it is read. Now you know that the Gospel is the proclamation of the King of kings. Therefore, as all proclamations must be read, so a sermon, being a proclamation, must be read, or it is not a sermon.’

"David looked dumfoundered. The boat had reached our destination, and the old Cameronian, on stepping out, exclaimed:

"‘Tuts, tuts, laddie, ye ha’e ower muckle Latin for me.’"

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