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Memoir of Norman MacLeod, D.D

HIS reception by the General Assembly, when he first entered it on his return from India, deeply touched him; the whole house greeted him with an enthusiastic outburst of welcome, which took him by surprise. On the afternoon of the same day ho delivered, from a few notes, an address occupying two hours, in which he stated the chief results arrived at by the Deputation. The substance of this speech was carefully prepared for the Press during a period of leisure enforced on him by his medical adviser, and which was spent in the Highlands. [Those portions of his address which touch on the general question of missions are given in the Appendix B, to which the reader is referred for the results of his inquiries in India.]

From his Journal:—

"June 3rd, Cuilchenna.—On my fifty-seventh birthday (entering my fifty-seventh birthday), and at Cuilchenna once more. I am silent. This is the first personal and private journal I have written since my last on the previous page, the night before I left for India. What months these have been to me! Is it all a dream—the voyage out with Watson and Lang, and the friendly passengers, Bombay and Poonah, and Colgaum and Karli, the voyage to Calicut, Madras, Bangalore, Vellore, Conjeveram, Calcutta, Patna, Allahabad, Benares, Cawnpore, Lucknow, Agra, Delhi, the Feroze?

"Then the remembrance of that meeting with my wife at Alexandria, and the good Cunliffes, and Cairo and its Oriental glories; the voyage to Malta, and St. Paul's Bay; then Sicily, Syracuse, Catania, railway to Messina, boat to Palermo, and the drive to Monreale; then the horrible Carybdie steamer to Naples; Naples and Madame Meuricoffer, and the Watsons, and Dr. Pincoffs, and Amalfi; Puteoli, Baiæ, and Borne! with Strahan and Signor Garofalini, and all the glories. Home by Civita Vecchia, Marseilles, Paris. God be praised—God be praised! What a time of joy and blessing!

"That night I returned was indescribable—so unreal, and yet so real. Never was there to me so dreamlike a thing as when dear friends, deacons, elders, and members of my church and working people met me at the railway, and shook me by the hand. Spectres could not have been move unreal. It seemed as if it could not be they, and that I was not myself and home again. India seemed to follow me up till that moment, and Scotland did not seem real. The present was not as the past; and then the ever memorable supper in my own house, with my mother and aunts, and sisters and brothers, and children. What! was I at home? Was I alive? Had I returned? Perhaps the feeling of never returning to which I clung, somehow, as necessary for my peace, made the return the more strange and incomprehensible. I cannot describe the feeling. It was not excitement, but calm, dumb, dream-like wonder!

"And here I am with a full moon shining over Glencoe, and all as still as the desert—health restored, and all spared!

"O my dear father ! how I thank and bless Thee, and record Thy goodness. But it is the old story of Love!

"I wish also, to record the marvellous manner in which my people behaved in my absence. Everything went on better than before ! Few things have helped more to bring about an answer to many a prayer, that I might be enabled to love my people with something of that yearning, motherly feeling, as if to one's own children, which St. Paul had in such glorious perfection. I feel this strengthening of the cords between us as a great gift from God. 'Our separation has done us both good!"

To Miss Scott Moncrieff:—

"Many, many thanks for your chit (I have lost my native language). I have so much to say to you and to your Indian staff, that I must be silent till we meet. I have verily had a memorable time of it. God has blessed us and our work. I have been wounded in the grand campaign, and the doctors say that I must go to hospital for months to come, and that, to prevent evil, I must be idle, as my brain cannot stand constant demands on it. At fifty-seven I am not what I was, but I may do work yet if I get rest. It was wild work in India! Do you remember the Sunday controversy, and how I was an outcast from all good society! Fancy me last night, chairman by request at a Free Kirk missionary meeting, in a Free Kirk, with a Free Kirk lecturer, and only Free Kirk ministers around me, and receiving Free Kirk thanks! I may live to be a Free Kirk Moderator till the next time I am called to stand alone, and then—woe's me!"

To A. Strahan, Esq.:—

"I deny the canon of criticism by which religious novels are condemned. It would exclude even Christ's teaching by parables, and would for ever preclude me or any minister from writing stories. 'I stan' on the head o' my fish an' wull maintain the flukes are fresh and glide,' as a Newhaven fish-wife said to me."

To his Mother, on his Birthday: —
"June 3rd.

"I am quite safe in saying that I have written to you, say forty letters, on my birthday; and whatever was defective as to number in my letters was made up by your love. Now I begin to think the whole affair is getting stale to you. In short, you anticipate all I can say, am likely to say, or ought to say; and having done so, you begin to read and to laugh and cry time about, and to praise me to all my unfortunate brothers and sisters, until they detest me till June 4th. Don't you feel grateful I was born? Are you not thankful? I know you are, and no wonder, I need not enumerate all those well-known personal and domestic virtues which have often called forth your praises, except when you are beaten at backgammon. But there is another side of the question with which I have to do, and that is, whether I ought to be so very grateful to you for the event with which June 3rd, 1812, is associated. As I advance in life, this question becomes more interesting to me and it seems due to the interests of truth and justice to state on this day, when I have had fifty-six years' experience of life in its most varied forms, that I am by no means satisfied with your conduct on that occasion, and that if you fairly consider it, I feel assured you will justify me in demanding from you the only reparation possible—an ample apology, and a solemn promise never to do the like again ! You must acknowledge that you took a very great liberty with a man of my character and position, not to ask me whether I was disposed to enter upon a new and important state of existence; whether I should prefer winter or summer to begin the trial; or whether I should be a Scotchman, Irishman, or Englishman; or even whether I should be 'man or woman born;' each of these alternatives involving to me most important consequences. What a good John Bull I would have made ! what a rattling, roaring Irishman! what a capital | mother or wife ! what a jolly abbess ! But you doomed me to be born in a tenth-rate provincial town, half Scotch, half Highland, and sealed my doom as to sex and country. Was that fair? Would you like me to have done that to you? Suppose through my fault you had been born a wild Spanish papist, what would you have said on your fifty-seventh birthday, with all your Protestant convictions? Not one Maxwell or Duntroon related to you ! you yourself a nun called St. Agnese! and all, forsooth, because I had willed that you should be born at Toledo on June 3rd, 1812 ! Think of it, mother seriously, and say, have you done to me as you would have had me do to you?

"Then again, pray who is to blame for all I have suffered for fifty-six years! Who but you? This reply alone can be made to a thousand questions which press themselves on my memory, until the past seems a history of misery endured with angelic patience. Why, I might ask, for example, did I live for weeks on insipid 'lythings,' spending days and nights screaming, weeping, hiccoughing, with an old woman swathing and unswathing me, whose nature retires from such attentions? Why had I for years to learn to walk and speak, and amuse aunts and friends like a young parish fool, and wear frocks—fancy me in a frock now, addressing the Assembly! and yet I had to wear them for years! Why have I suffered from mumps, hooping-cough, measles, scarlet fever, toothache, headache, lumbago, gout, sciatica, sore back, sore legs, sore sides, and other ailments; having probably sneezed several thousand times, and coughed as often since christened? Why? Because I was born? because you, and none but you, insisted I should be born? Why have I had to be tossed about on every sea and ocean, and kept in perpetual danger from icebergs, fogs, storms, shipwrecks? You did it? Why have I had my mind distracted, my brain worn, my heart broken, my nerves torn, my frame exhausted, my life tortured with preachings and preparations, speeches, lectures, motions, resolutions, programmes; with sessions, presbyteries, and assemblies; with all Churches, bond and free; with all countries from west to east, with good words anobad words; with Sunday questions and week-day questions; with all sorts of people, from Trembling Jock to the Queen; with friends and relations, Jews and Greeks, bond and free? Why all this, and a thousand times more, if not simply and solely because, forsooth, of your conduct on June 3rd, 1812? No wonder it is a solemn and sad clay to you! No wonder you sigh, and—unless all good is out of you—weep too. I was told my poor father on the day I was born, hid himself in a hayrick from sheer anxiety. He had some idea of what was doing. But, dear soul! he always gave in to you, and it was in vain for either of us to speak. I am told I yelled very loud—I hope I did—I could do no more then; and I can do little more now than protest, as I do, against the whole arrangement.

"An American expressed to a friend of mine a great desire to visit Siam, as he understood its people were all twins ! The thought makes me tremble. What if I had been born like the Siamese twins ! Think of my twin brother and myself going as a deputy to India : in the same berth, speaking together at the same meeting, sick together at sea, or both suffering from gout, and you concerned and anxious about your poor dear boys ! What, supposing my twin had married Mrs. ------?

"Mother dear, repent!

"One good quality remains: I can forgive, and I do forgive you this day, in pledge of which I send you my love, big as my body, yea without limit, as large a kiss as my beard and moustache will permit.

"This is a glorious Highland day! What delicious air ! It blows and rains, and is as bitterly cold as the most ardent Celt could desire.

"The amusing prattle of eight children in the house, craving for excitement, with nothing to do, is truly soothing and acts as balm to my nervous system. The sail yesterday was charming, and the canal boat with a crammed cabin and heavy rain, was too delightful for a gouty world.

"Glencoe, if you could see it through this thick rain, is grand, and the rattling of the windows from the wind quite musical. I am trying to cure my gout by walking in wet grass, so keep your mind easy!"

To A. Strahan, Esq.:—

"I send, for yourself only, the enclosed hints from------. Now you know the real love that he has to us personally, and to G. W. I therefore value such hints, though I confess that I do not know to what he alludes. But to guard against the possibility of a single expression being printed by us which the weakest Christian could be pained by, I beseech you to let me see every MS. or proof before being printed off. I, as a minister, am more conversant than you can be with religious topics and the pulse of the religious world. Besides, as you also know, my chief delight in Good Words is its power of doing good. God knows this is more precious to me than all the gold and silver on earth could be."

To Miss Scott Moncrieff :—

"The past and the future seem to me to become every day more vivid, while the more immediate point is more confused and vanishing. The old home in Dalkeith Bark is never empty, but always full to me with people who are always happy, and can never die. So are other houses of my friends.

Thank God for memory and for hope! When these earthly houses are discovered by us at last to be empty, and all our thoughts about them dreams, then at the same moment we shall also discover that another home is inhabited by the same dear friends, and that our dreams cease only when we have awoke to and met with realities. My dear Norman has left us this morning to begin commercial life in Liverpool. He, and two of his sisters, joined us on Tuesday at our winter communion, but as I entered his bed-room after he was gone it was very dream-like—'In deaths oft.' "

From his Journal:—

"Sunday, July 19.—What are called innocent enjoyments, with much which makes up and adds to the happiness of life — poetry, painting, smiles, and laughter, the sallies of playful wit, or the quiet chuckle, the delightful emotions—half smiles, half tears,—created by humour, the family fun in summer evenings in the open air—all that kind of life which we enjoy and remember with such enjoyment (albeit mingled with sadness, not for what it was, but because it is not)—why is this not associated in our minds with saintship and holiness? Is it because those who are not holy possess it all? Yet this would only prove the liberality of God, and not the sinfulness of man—or any inconsistency in saints partaking of it. Is it that such happiness is sin? This cannot be. It would be a libel on all our instincts and feelings and the whole round of life as appointed by God. Is it that we have formed wrong ideas of saintship, and created, as in mediaeval art, such notions as would make saintship impossible, or utterly outré and grotesque in the Exchange, or behind the counter, or on a Railway Board, or committee of Parliament? Yet it is in such places we need saints most. Or is it that we make such men as the apostles examples of what all men should be, and thence conclude that if so, the life I have alluded to must be wrong, earthly, and unworthy of men, as it could not be theirs? But, again, I look at the flowers Christ has made, and listen to His singing birds, whose bills, and throats, and instincts He has made, and con over all the gay and beautiful 'trifles' He has attended to as the Maker of the world, and which He called very good, and in which He has pleasure, and so the 'methodistical' view of life does not hold. But may not a life in harmony with this, in which the small flowers, and the small singing birds, and the perfumes, and the lights and shadows and sparkling waves, shall hold their own with the great mountains and mighty oceans, and intellectual and moral harmonies among God's great beings, be the normal state of things, and be reproduced in the new heavens and the new earth 1 The sorrows and sadness of Christ and of men like St. Paul would thus be abnormal, conditioned by the evil of sin. They would be as the sadness of a family because of a death and burial, but which was not their natural condition. The world's greatest men, in God's sense, God's own elect ones, the kings and princes of humanity, are thus necessarily the greatest sufferers. It is given them to 'suffer with Christ' as the highest honour, for it is the honour and glory of seeing things as they are in the true and eternal light which no mere man can see and live. But such men must die and be buried in the grave of sorrow, crucified by the world's sin.

"Yet let this occasion of sorrow be taken away, and why might not a St Paul be a child again, and chase butterflies, gather flowers, and shout with joy among the heather! It is a great gift to be able to be happy at all, and S3e, however dimly, into life and death. Those who imitate these holy men only in their sadness and sorrow, practise a vain guise, like a mask, and fancy the signs of grief or grief itself to be a virtue, and not a misfortune, and glorious only as a sign of an inner love—the light which casts the shadow. Those who seek happiness for its own sake and call it innocent, and think it lawful without the eternal good, are vain as larks who would live only for singing, and silly as flowers who see nothing in creation but their own colours, and perceive nothing but their own perfume.

"A mountain once rebuked a, rivulet for always foaming and making a noise. The rivulet replied that the ocean often did the same. 'Yes,' said the mountain, 'but the ocean has its depths and calms: you have neither.' "


"Cuilchenna, July 21.—The scenes of peace and beauty in Nature, resulting from the great cataclysms of the past; paralleled by the peace in the world and in the soul from the anguish of suffering.


"The force of gravitation overcoming the storm and waves in carrying tiny bubbles out into the ebb tide; paralleled by the power of faith in the unseen, in those otherwise weak, as a power striving against and conquering apparently irresistible opposition.


"The light, reflected by clouds, climbing a mountain side, illustrative of a pure mind rising over mighty heights of thought, and revealing their beauties."

"I see a field, one half is tilled
And may give something to the baker;
With weeds the other half is filled,
Not worth a halfpenny per acre.

"I won't admit that field is good
Because some good things grow within it—
I say 'tis bad for human food,
And getting worse, too, every minute.

"The owner of it is so lazy,
Yet most contented and pretentious,
His sense of duty very hazy,
And yet so very conscientious.

"He says 'he likes' one half to till,
He 'likes' what gives him little trouble,
He likes to follow his own will,
He likes in short to quirk and quibble.

"And now as I have told my mind
About onesided plough and harrow,
The lesson is,—I never find
Men very good and very narrow.

"One half their lazy minds they till,
The other half is always weedy;
They worship idols, do their will,
Are often wicked—always seedy!"

To the Rev. Dr. Watson :—

"It is very difficult for me to write at present, as a nervous headache sets in always in half an hour, so that it is impossible to write. It goes off ten minutes after I stop, so that I can get on by fits and starts only.

"You must come soon again. I am wearying to have a talk in Sanscrit.

"'He who talketh Sanscrit talketh like a man, but he who talketh never (like me) is dumb.'—Hindoo Proverb.

"' He who is choked can never be hanged.'—Hindoo Proverb.

"'Heartburnings cause sourness, and sourness is never sweet.'—A Scotticism.

"My head gets so sore when I try to write."

To the Same:—

"If we could only get half a dozen truly able and enlightened Christian native preachers, they would soon settle a creed for themselves. When we get freedom at home as to the subscription of articles, we shall be better able to work freely in India. The chief difficulty in the way of advancing Christianity in India is, unquestionably, that almost all the missionaries represent a narrow, one-sided Christianity."

To Mrs. Macleod:— ,
"Glasgow, Wednesday.

"I think this fit of sciatica is past. I had a queer night of it, between pain and sleeplessness.

"I employed part of my idle time after midnight in arranging the drawing-room. You would have laughed at me, as I did. But I could find no rest with that horrid neuralgia. It is gone to-day."


"I got sleep from seven to ten this morning, and I feel better than I have done for weeks. In short, after this I shall have a lease of good health.

"Kiss Cuilchenna for me.

"In the meantime, 'Good-night!' "

To Mr. Simpson, of Messrs. Blackwood & Sons, Publishers :—
"Cuilchenna, August 24,

"I send you the last and concluding pages of my MS. The facts seems to me incredible, but it is true. I breathe more freely. My soul could transmigrate into 8vo., and lie for ages in a minister's library, unread and uncut like his own volume of sermons. Open the parcel, gently and reverently; 'there is a spirit in the leaves,' but one which your devils alone can comprehend. By the way, it may strike you that I say nothing against the devil-worship, so common among the aborigines of India. The fact is that I respect it more than any other form of heathenism. Its origin is literary. I have no doubt whatever that the original printers of the Vedas had some shocking MS. of Ram, or Kerishnu, or Dasaratha, or Ikshwaku, or Vishnu, to print, and they manifested such genius in deciphering it, such patience in printing it, such meekness in correcting it, that they became objects of worship. The 'Devil Dance' evidently originated in the joy witnessed among the printers when the MS. of the Ramayana or Manabharat was finally printed. I respect therefore all these types of the devils who lived in the days of Noah. They may have been the 'regular bricks' of Babylon, with their printed sides.

"The great Sancrit scholar, Dr. Muir, must know all about it. Was the corrector of the press originally the corrector of morals?"

To the Same:—

"I should like to see final proof of that address.

"'To fight the battle of Waterloo,' remarked the Duke, with whom I humbly but firmly compare myself, was nothing. But to reply to letters, criticisms, &c, upon it, that was the work of real pain and difficulty.'

"The Duke, I feel, was right; but what was his work to mine!

"He got Water loo [Anglice, lukewarm.] I'll get water hot."

From his Journal:—

"Cuilchenna, Sept. 1.—This day ends my rest since I returned from India. I cannot tell what these months have been to me of quiet repose, of health almost restored, of blessed family life.

"I have not been idle, in the sense of doing nothing but amusing myself. I have hardly been a Sunday without preaching somewhere; once on the green, four times at Ballachulish, twice at Kilmallie, and once at Fort William. Above all I began and finished here my 'Address on Missions,' which has occupied more of my thoughts, and given me more trouble than anything I ever did. I have also written a chapter on 'Peeps at the Far East,' and a preface on the ' Characteristics of Highland Scenery,' for a Book of Photographs illustrative of the Queen's book, with some songs, and letters innumerable, besides preaching twice at home and attending all the meetings of the India Mission Committee.

"And then we had our evening readings from Shakespeare, or some other worthy book, and delightful croquet, and such evenings at fishing ! never to be forgotten for their surpassing glory; and two happy visits from dear Watson, one of them with Clark of Gyah. It has been a heavenly time, for which with heart, soul, and strength I thank Cod.

"India, how dreamlike!"

"We need not build memorial cairns,
Ah no, my wife, I cannot do it;
For should we do so with the bairns,
Some day, my love, we're sure to rue it.

"If each dear hand lays down the stone
With love to all around to guide it,
Oh, who of us could come alone
In after years, and stand beside it?

"There's not a spot around this place,
There's not a mountain, glen, or river,
But shall recall each dear one's face,
And memories that perish never.

"On every hill-top we might raise
A 'holy rood,' though I would rather
We gave upon it daily praise
To Him who is indeed our Father.

"This time of joy in this dear place,
This Sabbath rest—to Him we owe it,
And not the least gift of His grace
That both of us have learned to know it."

"A word about politics. As to the Irish Establishment, I am on this point out and out for Gladstone. A nation must choose its own Church, - and for all such practical purposes Ireland is as much an individuality as India. No idea can be right which practically is so offensive to common sense and to fair play as the Irish Establishment. Had the rest of Britain been Roman Catholic, how should we Presbyterians have liked the Establishment of a Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, with two millions of Presbyterians and one million of Roman Catholics'! We drove out the Episcopal Protestant Church when it was out of harmony with the mind of the nation. To square the Protestant Establishment with Protestants won't do, It is an offence as a privileged Church to those subjects who do not believe in its teaching, and to whom it is no Church at all. If the Church of Scotland is in the same condition, which I deny, let it go. Justice must be done. The age of selfish monopolies of every kind is gone. Let it go. Christianity implies a giving all we can, a sharing all possible good with others. To fear Romanism ! I am ashamed. Having ceased long ago to fear the devil, I can be frightened by nothing more. No evil need be feared, so long as good is loved. All evil is doomed; God is on the side of truth alone.

"All true politics should be in the line of making all the good possessed by the nation or in the nation, as much as possible a common good. No institution can be righteously defended unless it can be proved to benefit the country more than its destruction could do."

To Rev. Dr. Watson:—
"Cuilchenna, September, 1868.

"There is nothing I believe more firmly than that what is needed is that a man seek to know, believe, and act out the truth as he best can; and I rejoice in the thought that thus the great stones which build up the mighty Temple are cemented by thin layers, unseen by human eye, of ten thousand times ten thousand unknown but great, because humble, men and women.

"My highest ambition ought to be, and in a feeble sense is, to be a humble man, which I am not. Although, being not so, I would not like you to agree with me ! I hope, however, by the grace of God, to be able at last to creep into a door-keeper's place in the house of God, or to be among the lowest guests in the lowest room. 'It will wonder me,' as the Germans say, should it be so in the end."

To Mrs. Macleod: —
"Abergeldie, September 14, 1868.

"I am much the better for this trip. The air is cold and bracing. No strangers. All most kind. The Duke of Edinburgh is here.

"I preached happily. The Prince spoke to me about preaching only twenty minutes. I told him I was a Thomas a Becket, and would resist the interference of the State, and that neither he nor any of the party had anything better to do than hear me. So I preached for forty-seven minutes, and they were kind enough to say they wished it had been longer.

"The Prince's whole views as to his duty to Scotland and Ireland as well as England, were very high. He spoke most kindly and wisely of Ireland, and seems determined to run all risks (as he did) to do his duty to her."

From his Journal:

"The Moderatorship has been offered me by the Old Moderators, and I at first, by word and letter, out and out refused it. I did so chiefly on the ground of my desire for freedom in the expression of my personal opinions, without involving the Church as its representative, and as also a writer of whims, crotchets, songs and stories, and the editor of Good Words. But it was strongly represented to me by old Moderators that I ought and must accept—that it was a duty to accept, which is a very different thing from a mere compliment. Well, they know all about me, and the worst about me, and if, knowing this, they like to take me, it is their own look-out. I was free to accept it, which I latterly did, feeling very much the generosity of the Church in so acting to me. I feel that I won't betray them, as I have no object but the good of my dear Church, and, if possible, my still dearer country."

"Nov. 24.—My family left Cuilchenna at the end of September. I was obliged to leave sooner, and felt as stiff and gouty at the end as the beginning."

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