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The Long Glen
Chapter XXI - The Presentee

THE Crown presentee came at the appointed time, and preached his trial sermons. It was a foregone conclusion on the part of the great majority of the congregation that he should be vetoed—"whatever." To those who were so determined, it was a disappointment that they could not accuse him of keeping his nose to the paper or even of being a man of inferior preaching ability.

Although it was the last thing the leaders should like to confess, none of them could help feeling that the presentee was decidedly superior to the man for whose appointment the glen had unanimously petitioned. But matters were now come to such a pass throughout the whole Church that to call a man "presentee" was enough, in five cases out often, to ensure his condemnation.

Yet there was much wavering, too. In the glen, notwithstanding the rejection of the petition, Mr Stuart made such a favourable impression that the leaders needed to bring much prayer-meeting and other pressure to bear on weak, hesitating brethren and sisters, who, if left to themselves, would sign the call and spoil the game. Even Ealag was more than half recalcitrant, and it was not easy to keep her silent.
In after years a great outcry was made against the alleged tyranny of a few landlords who hesitated to grant sites on which to build Free Churches cheek-by-jowl with the Parish Churches; but that very limited tyranny was a trifle not worth mentioning compared with the real and general precedent tyranny by which peaceful and law-abiding people were, contrary to their will, driven step by step out of the Church of their fathers.

In consequence of the parish being vacant, this tyranny was exercised in the glen partly by the elders, but chiefly by the holy women, and by a knot of young men who found it much easier to qualify for ecclesiastical importance by effective partisanship than Effectual Calling.

The quiet settlement of the Crown presentee would clearly prejudice the Disruption movement as far as the glen and perhaps some of the adjoining parishes were concerned ; so it was clearly a thing that could not be permitted. The independent party was small, and it was composed of old members, who, on this church question, were deserted by their middle-aged sons and daughters, and of a few unregenerated young people, who took the bit between their teeth, but who had no potential voice, as they were not yet communicants.

Although the independent party was not strong, it only needed a chief "of light and leading," such as a good resident Presbyterian laird would have made, to attract to itself the host of waverers who were being hard driven in the direction opposite to their wishes. But no such chief was then to be found, and the want of him paralysed the hands of the anti-Secessionists; among whom, in truth there was not a man who did not ardently desire the abolition of Patronage by Act of Parliament.

While the glen anti-Secessionists were reviled as "Black Moderates" by the other side, they were looked upon as half rebels by the Edinburgh leaders of their own party ; who, flattering themselves with the pleasant hope of a complete break-down of the threatened Disruption at the last moment, folded their hands in blissful repose, and, except by issuing some pamphlets which worked mischief, neglected the many means readily available for counteracting the demagogic agitation and driving on the other side. Was there a single parish in the land in which an anti-Secession association could not have been formed, and in which it would not have clipped the flapping wings of Disruption ? In farm-houses and cottages the real gravity of the situation was fully understood, and it was with sinking hearts that those who feared the unhinging of society, and wished to save the Kirk by the abolition of Patronage—the only possible salvation measure then—saw the Moderate minority and a Tory Government diligently, yet all unconsciously, helping the magicians who were conjuring up the Disruption storm.

On a dull, cold, winter morning a band of old men, with a few representatives of the younger generation, were waiting at the smithy for the ringing of the church bell, Duncan Ban was there, of course. So was Calum. The three seanairean were shoulder to shoulder, as they had been all their lives. Iain Og was absent through illness( but his place was filled by a short, stout farmer from the distant braes, who seldom meddled in matters political or ecclesiastical. The younger men were the smith, the wright, Ewan Mor, and Diarmad.

What were they gathered together for ? This day the people of the glen were summoned to assemble in the church at twelve o'clock, before the Presbytery of the bounds, to sign the call to the presentee or to object to his settlement.

The wright, a clever, caustic individual, who had not till now bothered his head about Kirk affairs, was, so to speak, in the act of addressing the House when two of the Veto party, on their way to church, made an incursion on the anti-Veto conclave. They were evidently surprised to find the wright among the Moderates, and Gregor, one of the two invaders, asked him tauntingly if he had become an apostate?

The wright retorted sharply that he thought all the apostates, with the First Apostate at their head, were on the other side. He added in a lower and more serious tone:—"I have been born, baptised, brought up, and married in the Kirk of Scotland, and I will die in her communion, come what may."

"So will I," and "So will I," said each of the small band, young and old, in quick succession.

"The presentee, however, will be vetoed to-day by a great majority," said Gregor, who was one of the effective partisanship young men. "We have taken care of that."

And his sleek companion, with a downcast look, improved the opportunity by adding:—"It is a pity you did not all come to the meeting held the other night, for truly might it be called a time of refreshing from the Lord."

Diarmad—"And you did really then call upon the Lord before counting the Veto-folk?"

Gregor—"Yes, assuredly. Everything was done solemnly and in order. Suitable addresses were given" (he gave one himself, of which he was proud) "and a letter of encouragment and advice from Dunedin was read and explained."

"And for sure," added his companion, "it was a high privilege to join in the Elder Claon's opening prayer. It was with great unction and earnest desire that he did supplicate the Lord to guide our steps and to help us to forward His cause in Alba and throughout the world by loudly lifting our testimony on behalf of Gospel Freedom and Righteousness, and against black Erastianism."

Diarmad—"Aye, I thought so. You called upon the Lord, but you did not give Him a right of veto. Before asking heavenly guidance you were quite resolved to take your own evil guidance. What have you to say against this man that you will not have him for a minister?"

"He is not of the right sort, and he is being forced upon us." said Gregor.

"And there is no proof that he has ever received the unction of Grace or a call from the Lord," added his companion.

Duncan Ban—"You cannot deny that he is a more clear-faced gentleman and a better preacher than the thick-lipped man for whom we all petitioned."

Gregor—"He is on the wrong side, and that makes a great difference."

Duncan Ban—"So you would veto the Apostle Paul, acting on his own advice regarding submission to the Powers that be, he came to us with a Crown presentation in his pocket?"

Gregor—"No fear that Paul or any Apostle would ever come with such a paper."

His Friend—"To suppose such a thing at all is a great sin."

Diarmad—"If there be any sin, it must be in supposing that there should not any longer be room and liberty for two opinions on things on which men have differed from the beginning, and on which they are likely to differ to the end."

Duncan Ban—"And, Gregor, who may be this friend of thine, that is so ready, on his own authority, to notch down a new sin on his tally-stick. I know him not, and yet he does not seem to be altogether a stranger to my eyes."

Gregor—"This is Seumas Cinneideach, our new shoemaker, who has got the croft and house of the old greusaich at Camus. I think you must have known his father, Alastair an Iomain."

Duncan Ban—"Know Alastair an Iomain! Faith, I had good reason to know him. He stole a pair of hose from me, and he afterwards narrowly escaped getting hanged for sheep-stealing in the North. I'll tell you the story------"

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