Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Memoir of Norman MacLeod, D.D
Dalkeith, December, 1843 - June, 1845

THE town of Dalkeith, which formed by far the most important part of his new parish, had then a population of 5,000. Its principal streets are chiefly occupied by prosperous shops and the houses of well-to-do tradesmen; but the "wynds" behind these, and the miserable "closes" which here and there open from them, consist mainly of the dens of as miserable a class as can be found in the purlieus of Edinburgh or Glasgow. There were well-farmed lands in the country district of the parish, and one or two collieries with the usual type of mining village attached to them. There were in the town numerous churches belonging to various denominations, from the Episcopal chapel to the representatives of the chief forms of Presbyterian dissent. But still the charge which devolved upon the parish minister was a heavy one. Two churches belonged to the Church of Scotland, but only one of these was then open for worship; and the parish, which has since been divided, was of great extent. The old parish church, now beautifully restored, but at that time choked with galleries, rising tier above tier behind and around the pulpit, was a curious example of Scotch vandalism. There was, however, something of the picturesque in the confused cramming of these "lofts" into every nook and corner, and bearing quaint shields, devices, and texts emblazoned in front of the seats allotted to different guilds. The Weavers reminded the congregation of how life was passing "swiftly as the weaver's shuttle," and the Hammermen of how the Word of God smote the rocky heart in pieces.

The characteristics of his new charge were very different from those of Loudoun. He was aided and encouraged in his work in Dalkeith by many in every rank of life, and he formed life-long friendships with families remarkable at once for their culture and religious warmth. But the working-men of Dalkeith did not show the keen intellectual interest in public questions evinced by the weavers of Newmilns and Darvel, nor were they possessed of their intellectual enthusiasm and love of books. The prevailing tone of mind was solid, dull, and prosaic. There was, besides, a stratum of society low enough to be appalling. The very names of some of the "Vennels" in the town,—"Little Dublin," and the like,—indicated the character of their inhabitants. In such haunts there was to be found an amount of poverty, ignorance, and squalor, easy to reach so long as the question was one of almsgiving, but which it appeared almost impossible to reform.

Yet the missionary labour among the lapsed classes of Dalkeith, on which he now entered, formed useful training for his future work in Glasgow. In Dalkeith he made his first efforts in the direction of that congregational organization, which was subsequently developed with such success in the Barony. He held special week-day meetings to impart information to his people respecting missionary enterprise at home and abroad, and established associations for the systematic collection of funds in support of the work of the Church. He also sought to utilise the life and zeal of the communicants by giving them direct labour among their poor and ignorant neighbours. He personally visited both rich and poor, and opened mission stations in three different localities, where regular services were held on Sundays, and sewing and evening classes were taught during the week. He formed a loan-fund to help those who were anxious to help themselves, and although often disappointed, yet experience, on the whole, confirmed his belief as to the benefit of frankly trusting working-men with means for providing for themselves better houses and better clothes. Drunkenness was, as usual, the root-evil of most of the misery, and he strained every effort to grapple with its power. He did not join any temperance society, but in order to help those he was trying to reform, he entered with them, for a considerable period, into a compact of total abstinence. The results of these experiences he afterwards gave to the public in a tract entitled "A Plea for Temperance."

The seat of the noble family of Buccleuch is near the town of Dalkeith, and the town in many ways depends on the Palace. The gates of the Park stand at the end of the Main Street, and lead into a wide demesne, affording to many families unlimited walks through forests of oak and beech, stretching for several thousand acres along the picturesque banks of the Esk. Few noblemen realise more fully than the Duke of Buccleuch the responsibilities attached to property, or are more anxious to discharge faithfully the duties of their high station. His generosity, his chivalrous honour and lofty tone of mind endear him personally to all Scotchmen. Yet, even with so favourable an example, Norman Macleod perceived the grave practical evils attending that alienation of the nobility and gentry of Scotland from the national religion which has become of late years so prevalent. The causes that have mainly produced this result are easily discovered. It is natural that among men educated in England, and accustomed to the liturgy of her venerable Church, many should find the bald simplicity and extempore prayers of the Church of Scotland distasteful. The forms of worship which are so dear to the mass of the people, are unedifying to them. Nor is it to be wondered at if the cheap and ugly barns, which the heritors of Scotland have frequently erected as parish churches, should so offend the tastes of these heritors themselves as to drive them away from the ungainly walls. The ecclesiastical disputes too which have recently torn Scotland asunder, have perhaps repelled not a few, and made them seek the peaceful retirement of a communion which has not been identified for centuries with any national movement. However this may be, the great Earls and Barons who used, by their presence, to give an importance to the deliberations of the General Assembly scarcely second to that of the debates of Parliament, have now few representatives on her benches, so that those of the clergy who have struggled under many difficulties to increase the usefulness, elevate the tone, and improve the services of the Church, have been left without that support from the higher classes to which they naturally deem themselves entitled. And Norman Macleod deplored the division which had grown up between the nobility and the people for reasons besides those which affect the stability of the national Church. He saw that what absenteeism was doing in Ireland in subverting the loyalty of the masses was, in a smaller degree, yet unmistakeably, being accomplished in Scotland. "The aristocracy do not know what they are doing," he used frequently to say; "they. are making themselves the most powerful instruments for advancing democracy and of ruining the influence of their own order." He felt, with more than his usual warmth, that those loyal attachments which spring up when common sympathies and associations unite class with class, and which are so much calculated to sweeten the atmosphere of social and political life, are severely checked, when those who ought to be leaders in all that affects the deeper life of the people, live as foreigners and aliens, and by refusing to worship with their Presbyterian countrymen, throw discredit, not merely on the National Church, but on the national faith. Pecuniary or political support, however largely accorded, cannot counterbalance such personal alienation.

From the proximity of Dalkeith to Edinburgh he was able to study the working of the committees entrusted with the control of the various agencies of the Church, and to lend his aid in reconstructing her missions. The impressions produced by this experience were not encouraging, for while he entertained a profound personal respect for the good men who guided the business of the Church, he groaned aloud over the want of power and enthusiasm. He soon learned that there were causes for the slowness of progress lying deeper than faults of management, and his lamentations passed from the committees in Edinburgh to the indifference of many in the ministry, and of the Church at large. Morning, noon, and night his thoughts turned towards the revival of the zeal and the developement of the resources of the Church. "I am low—low about the old machine—no men, no guides, no lighthouses, no moulding master-spirit." Consumed with anxieties, he was glad when the opportunity was offered of making himself useful in Church business. The first work assigned to him, as well as the last, was in connection with the India Mission. He was sent in 1844 to the north of Scotland along with Mr. Herdman [Now the Rev. Dr. Herdman, of Melrose, who was, in 1872, appointed his successor in the management of the Indian mission.] to organize associations for the promotion of female education in Hindostan.

To his Sister Jane:—

"Dalkeith, Friday, December 15, 1843.

"Well, it is all over!—I am now minister of Dalkeith; and may God in His mercy grant that it may be all for His own glory! I received a most hearty welcome, and was rejoiced to get hold of not a few hard horny fists, and also the trembling hands of some old women. There is work for mo here, I thought, and some usefulness yet by God's grace."

From his Journal:—

"Dalkeith, December 16, 1843.

"I was yesterday inducted into my new charge. Another change— another great waterfall in the stream of time.

"I am weary of controversy and strife, and I shall devote my days and life to produce unity and peace among all who love Christ. I pray that God may make me more useful and holier now than I have ever been before, that I may be the means of saving others.

"Dec. 31st, Sabbath.'—The first Sabbath in my new parish and last night of the year. In an hour, forty-three with its solemn changes will have passed, and the unknown forty-four have begun. The grate before which I sit was in Campbeltown; I was toasted before it the night I was born. O time! O changes! My head aches!"

"August 5, 1844.

"I have been very busy; my catechism [A Catechism for Churchmen, on the Doctrine of the Headship of Christ, which he published after the "Cracks about the Kirk."] will be out this week, and will be only three-halfpence; it is, I think, simple and good. I am very anxious to write a tract to leave in sick-rooms, both for the use of the sick and, what I think is much wanted, for the use of those around the sick who may wish to be of service to them, but who hardly know what to do. I would point out passages of scripture for them to read, and give short comments upon these passages and a few simple prayers."

To his Sister Jane: —

"Inverness, August, 1844.

"I feel that in all the congregations I have addressed, and in all the meetings, there is little—very little real life! A great amount of coldness; at least, I think so. To form Missionary Associations is like giving good spectacles to those whose eyes are nearly out; they will not cure the disease. The 'eye-salve' must first be applied before much good can be done ! hence, what we need is preaching the gospel. This is an apparent truism; but alas! truisms are what people attend to least. On Tuesday I went to Elgin. The weather this week was magnificent; the air clear and bracing; the Moray Firth ' gleaming like a silver shield;' the great line of precipice of old red sandstone, which forms a rocky wall to Caithness, all clear and well-defined. Held our meeting at one; about fifty ladies present and several of the clergy. Formed the Association. Sermon at night tolerably well attended. Saw Patrick Duff's fossils from the old red; beautiful, very beautiful. Fish with the scales glittering as if the fish were caught yesterday.

"Next day found the coach full. A fair in Forres. Got a lift in a Free Churchman's gig. Had much talk with him, and could not blame the man; but blamed the clergy, old and new. Reached Nairn at twelve. John Mackintosh came down to the inn. He is mad about Germany and Germans ; he even smoked. Dined at Geddes, after forming an Association. Thursday was a glorious day. John and I drove off by the coach to Inverness. Had a good meeting. Our mission is now nearly over. I am very thankful I have come; thankful for the encouragement given by the clergy and the people, and thankful for having been enabled to preach the truth."

To John Mackintosh:—

"Dalkeith, October, 1844.

''Geddes is now one of the bright points in the world which lies in darkness, to which my spirit will often turn for light; but not your intellectual light, though of that there is abundance, but heart-light. I am every day hating intellect more and more. It is the mere gleaming of a glacier—clear, cold, chilly, though magnificent; and then------ 'Come, no more of this, an' thou lovest me, Hal.' I detest essay letters; but I love a smoke, and I love thee, dear John, and thy house, and even Ben Wyvis, and all the happy group that showed it to me ; and I love all that love me down to my devoted cat; and when any do not love me, I pity them for their wanting so large an object for their affections; and so I wish, above all things, to bear about with me a heart which I would not have shut by sin or by vanity, and % always open, dear John, to thee. Well, I had such a day and night with Shairp! I went to Houstoun. We talked—and you know my powers in that sort of wordy drizzle—we talked the moon down. We talked through the garden, and along the road, and up the avenue, and up the stair, and in the drawing-room, and during music, and during dinner, and during night, and, I believe, during sleep ; certainly during all next morning, and even when one hundred yards asunder, he being on the canal bank, and I in the canal boat. What a dear, noble soul Shairp is! I do love him. Would that our Church had a few like him. We want broad-minded, meditative men. We want guides, we want reality, we want souls who will do and act before God ; who would have that disposition in building up the spiritual Church, which the reverential Middle Age masons had when elaborately carving some graven imagery or quaint device, unseen by man's eye, on the fretted roof of a cathedral—they worked on God's house, and before God!"

To the Same:—

"Dalkeith, October, 1844, half-past nine A.M.

"'There is poetry in everything.' True, quite true, Emerson—thou true man, poet of the backwoods! But there is not poetry in a fishwife, surely? Surely there is; lots of it. Her creel has more than all Dugald Moore's tomes. Why there was one—I mean a fishwife—this moment in the lobby. She has a hooked nose. It seems to be the type, nay the an cestor, of a cod-hook. Her mouth was a skate or turbot humanised; her teeth, selected from the finest oyster pearl; her eyes, whelks with the bonnets on—bait for odd fish on sea or land; her hands and fingers in redness and toughness rivalled the crab, barring him of the Zodiac. Yet she was all poetry. I had been fagging, reading,and writing since 6 a.m. (on honour !)—had dived into Owen, was drowned in Edwards, and wrecked on Newman—my brain was wearied, when suddenly I heard the sound of ' Flukes!' followed by 'Had—dies!' (a name to which Haidee was as prose). 1 descended and gazed into the mysterious creel, and then came a gush of sunlight upon my spirit—visions of sunny mornings with winding shores, and clean, sandy, pearly beaches, and rippling waves glancing and glittering over white shells and polished stones, and breezy headlands; and fishing-boats moving like shadows onward from the great deep; and lobsters, and crabs, and spoutfish, and oysters, crawling, and chirping, and spouting out sea water, the old ' ocean gleaming like a silver shield.' The fishwife was a Claude Lorraine; her presence painted what did my soul good, and as her reward I gave her what I'll wager never during her life had been given her before—all that she asked for her fish! And why, you ask, have I sat down to write to you, beloved John, all this—to spend a sheet of paper, to pay one penny, to abuse ten tickings of my watch to write myself, like Dogberry, an ass? Why? 'Nature,' quoth d'Alembert, ' puts questions which Nature cannot answer.' And shall I beat Nature, and be able to answer questions put to me by John—Nature's own child 1 Be silent, and let neither of us shame our parent, Modesty forbids me to attempt any solution of thy question, dear John. Now for work. My pipe is out!"

To his Sister Jane:—

"Dalkeith, 1844.

"I have been horribly busy. As for next week, I cannot see my way to the end of it. I am to be at the top of my speed, and no mistake. I have got a beautiful third preaching-house in a close, so that I have the three best points in the town occupied, and I will clear the way for a missionary. I am going to develope one of my theories regarding the best method of teaching the lower orders, by getting pictures of the life of Christ, the Lord's Prayer, and Ten Commandments printed in large type, and hung up on the walls. I have more faith in the senses than most Presbyterians.

"Need I assure E------of the impossibility of my saying anything like what is reported of me! No—I said the fightings of 'all sects and parties were disgusting infidels even,' and so prejudicing Christianity in their minds.

"I am very jolly because very busy. Breakfast on bread-and-milk every morning at eight; dine at two jollily."

Letter to the late Sir John Campbell, of Kildalloig, on the birth of a son and heir.

"Officer of the Watch. The commodore is signalling, sir.

"Captain. What has she got up?

"Officer. No. 1, sir. ' An heir apparent is born.'

"Captain. Glorious news! All hands on deck. Bend on your flags. Stand by your halyards. Load your guns! All ready fore and aft!

"All ready, sir.

"Hoist and fire away!

"Three cheers!!!

"Load. Eire! Three cheers!!!

"Load again. Fire!

"Three tremendous cheers !!!

"For the Laird of Kildalloig!

"It is impossible to do justice to the sensation which was created in every part of the ship. The vessel herself made one of her best bows, and for once ceased to look stern. The sails, though suffering much from the bight of a rope, for which the doctor had stuck on them a number of leeches and recommended wet sheets, nevertheless 'looked swell' and much pleased as the top gallants said sweet things into their lee earing. The royals though rather high and complaining of the truck system, waved their caps. The chain-cable sung 'Old King Coil,' while the best-bower cried encore ! (anchor). The capstan began to make love to the windlass, who was thought to be a great catch, but who preferred the caboose on account of his coppers. The boatswain took the ship round the waist, but got it pitched into him for his impertinence. He said it was all friendship. The binnacle was out of his wits with joy—quite non-compass. The wheel never spoke; he had more conning than any in the ship, and was afraid of being put down, or getting hard up. The cuddy gave a fearful bray. The cat-of-nine-tails gave a mew which was heard a mile off, and scampered off to the best-bower, which was embracing the cat-head and sharing its stock with it. The lifebuoy roused up the dead lights, who rushed and wakened the dead eyes, who began to weep tears of joy. The shrouds changed into wedding garments. The two davits said they would, out of compliment to the laird, call themselves after the two Johns. The companion got so in love with marriage that he swore he would not be cheated by a mere name, but get another companion as soon as possible. The long-boat sighed for a punt, and began to pay his addresses to the cutter. The launch got so jealous that he kicked the bucket; while the swab declared he would turn cleanly, and try and earn a good character so as to get spliced to a holy-stone. The guns offered their services to all hands, and promised that they would marry all and sundry can(n)onically, and each give a ball on the occasion. The block-heads alone were confused, but even they said they would contribute their sheaves. The very man-holes spoke lovingly of the fair sex; and the false keel for once spoke truth, saying he never saw such fun, but that he would be at the bottom of all this mystery.

"What the effects of all this might have been no one can tell if all the above marriages had taken place; but just as all parties were ready for being spliced (the marling-spikes acting as curates), it was found every gun was deep in port. But in the meantime the captain summoned all on deck and gave the following short but neat speech:—

My men,—Fill your glasses ! Drink a bumper to the health of the young Laird of Kildalloig. May he swim for many a long year over the stormy ocean on which he has been launched. May neither his provisions nor cloth ever fail him. May he ever be steered by the helm of conscience, and go by the chart of duty and the compass of truth; and may every breeze that blows and every sea that dashes carry him nearer a good haven!'


To his Mother:—

"Dalkeith, Sunday, 1845.

"After working very hard during the week, 1 rose to-day at half-past six, studied till nine, taught my school till eleven, preached forenoon and afternoon long sermons, had baptisms, slept for an hour, preached for an hour to fifty outcasts in the wynd, was my own precentor and clerk, and here I am as fresh as a lark—a pulse going like a chronometer, and a head calm, and clear and cool as a mountain spring. But my chief reason for writing you to-night is to tell you a story which has amused me.

"On coming home this evening I saw a number of boys following and speaking to, and apparently teasing, a little boy who, with his hands in his pockets and all in rags, was creeping along close by the wall. He seemed like a tame caged bird which had got loose and was pecked at and tormented by wild birds. His cut was something like this. I asked the boys who he was. 'Eh! he's a wee boy gaun' about begging, wi'out faither or mither!' He did seem very wee, poor child—a pretty boy, only nine years old. I found him near my gate and took him in. I asked him to tell me the truth. He said his father was alive—a John Swan, in Kirkaldy; that his 'ain mither' was dead; that he had a stepmother; that 'a month and a week ago' he left them, for they used to send him to beg, to drink the money he got, and to thrash him if he brought none in; and that they sent him out one evening and he left them. He got threepence from a gentleman and crossed in the steamboat to Leith. He had heard that he was born in Kirkhill near this, 'and that his mither lived there wi' him when he was a bairn.' He reached a stable, and there he has been ever since, begging round the district. Poor infant! Jessie, my servant, once a servant in some charitable institution, was most minute in her questionings about Kirkaldy; but his answers were all correct and very innocent. Well, a few minutes after, Jessie came in. 'What,' said I, 'are you doing with the boy?' 'Oo, I gied him his supper, puir thing, and am making a shakedown for him; and, ye see, I saw he was verra dirty, and I pit him in a tub o' water, and he's stannin in't ee' noo till I gang ben. That's the way we vised to do in the Institution. Eh ! if ye saw the boys frae the Hielans that used tae come there! Keep me! I couldna eat for a week after cleannin them; and wee Swan is just as bad. I wadna tell ye hoo dirty he is, puir bairn! I couldna thole tae pit him tae his bit bed yon way. I cast a' his duds outside the door, and sent Mary Ann straight up tae the factor's for a sack for him; for ye see whan we washed them in the Institution------' 'Be off,' said I, 'and don't keep the poor fellow in the tub longer.' I went in, a few minutes ago, and there I found him, or rather saw something like a ghost amongst mist, Jessie scrubbing at him, and seeming to enjoy the work with all her heart. 'How do you like it?' Fine, fine!' But just as I wrote the above word, the door was opened, and in marches my poor boy, paraded in by Jessie—a beautiful boy, clean as a bead, but with nothing on but a large beautiful clean shirt, his hair combed and divided; and Jessie gazing on him with admiration, Mary Ann in the background. The poor boy hardly opened his lips, he looked round him in bewilderment. 'There he is,' said Jessie; 'I am sure ye're in anither warld the night, my lad. Whan wer ye clean afore?' 'Three months syne.' ' War ye ever as clean afore?' 'No.' 'What will ye do noo? 'Idinna ken.' 'Will ye gang awa and beg the night?' 'If ye like.' 'No,' said I, 'be off to your bed and sleep.' Poor child, if his mother is in heaven she will be pleased! "If charity covers a multitude of sins, Jessie Wishart will get her reward."

From his Journal:—

"January, 1845.—Of nothing do we stand more in need in this poor country at this moment than of a man who knows and loves the truth, and who would have the courage to speak out with a voice which would command a hearing. I think we are in a forced, cramped, fettered, unnatural state. It is notorious to every honest man, who will open but a corner of even one eye, that we have received a terrible shock by the Secession. It is very possible that had there been no Secession, the Establishment might have been in the end more irrevocably shattered, as an Establishment, by the High Church forces within, than she is or can be by these same forces acting on her from without. This is a 'may be ' only; but it is ' no may be,' but a most serious fact, that the withdrawal of these men has left us fearfully weak. In what respects?

"1. There are many parishes left with mere skeleton congregations. In some parts of Sutherland and Boss-shire, the skeleton has dwindled down to a bone—a mere fossil.
"2. The best ministers, and the best portion of our people have gone. Lots of humbugs, I know, are among them ; but, as a general fact, this is true.
"3. The 'moderate' congregations will coon make 'moderate' ministers. The tone will insensibly be lowered.
"4. We have many raw recruits; and they are thinking more of the drawing-room paper and the fiars [The annual value of grain by which the stipends of parish ministers are determined.] prices than of the Church.
"5. We have no heads to direct us; not one commanding mind, not one trumpet voice to speak to men's inner being and compel them to hear. There are, I doubt not, many who would do right if they knew what was right to do. Like some regiments during the war, we have gone into battle with our full complement of men, and the slaughter has been so great that ensigns have come out majors and field-officers, with rank and uniform, but without talent or experience.

But the Free Church is as crammed with error as we are, though of a different and less stupid kind. Vanity, pride, and haughtiness, that would serve Mazarin or Richelieu, clothed in Quaker garb; Church ambition and zeal and self-sacrifice that compete with Loyola; and in the Highlands specimens of fanaticism which Maynooth can alone equal. This is not so characteristic of the people as of the clergy, although it is met with among deacons, and the clever tailors and shoemakers of the party, and some of the Jenny Geddes type; but many of the people follow them because they somehow think it safer, while they follow their own kind hearts also, and love good men and good ministers of all denominations.

"I fear much that this great excitement, without Christian principle, will produce reaction with sin; and that our nation will get more wicked. Alas ! this is drawing rapidly on the Highlands. The Establishment cannot save that poor country, for the mass of the clergy are water-buckets. The Free Church cannot save it, for they are firebrands.

"What should we do?

"Not lean on the aristocracy. They have but one eye, and it looks at one object—the landed interest. If they, as a body, support the Establishment, it is on much the same principle that they support guano—because it helps to make men pay their rents.

"Not on Government. Peel is a trimmer, and would for a time 'save the country.'

"Not on numbers. Holiness is power. The poorest man who is great in prayer is, perhaps, a greater man in affecting the destinies of the world than the Emperor of Russia. We need quality, not quantity!

"On missions! Good! So are spectacles, if we have eyes; so are steam-engines, if they have steam.

"We require an Inner Work in the hearts of the clergy and the people. We need life, and not mere action; the life of life, and not life from galvanism. If we were right in our souls, out of this root would spring the tree and fruit, out of this fountain would well out the living water. But until we attend to this, mere outward action will but blind and deceive.

"The next two years will be years of severe trial to the Church.

"We want earnest men, truth-loving and truth-speaking men, and so 'having authority, and not as the scribes.' We want a talented, pious young Scotland party. We must give up the Church of the past, and have as our motto the Church of the future.

"The soldering between the Free Church and Dissenters has all along been false—based on love of popularity and self-interest, and hatred to the Establishment.

"February 7th.—The spirit of the ecclesiastical movement will never be known; it is a noxious gas, which, however, cannot be fixed in any material substance that will convey it to posterity. If it could be confined like chlorine, and conveyed like a bleaching powder to our grandchildren, it would bleach their faces white. You can always tell what a man says or does ; but can you tell in a history his lowering look, his fidgetty expression, his sneaky remarks, his infinite littleness and fierceness and fanaticism which have made up three-fourths of the man, which have given a complexion to his whole character, which have annoyed a whole neighbourhood! These things evaporate in a generation, and what posterity gets has been pickled and preserved on purpose for it—a made-up dish, spiced and peppered and tasted by the knowing hands, tried by cooking committees, and duly manufactured for the next age, and directed to be opened by those only who are ready to praise the dish and to vow that it is just the kind of thing which was common at every table in Scotland! And so, when any Fraser Tytler or Walter Scott, or any other historian, picks up the debris of dishes, very different, but once found, perhaps, in every house—' Oh! that was a chance meal, an unfortunate repast, a mere hurried lunch; not at all characteristic.

Open our forefathers' preserve pots. They are in our cupboard. These are the specimens of the true viands.' 'O history, what a humbug art thou!' Once we leave the Bible, history is but bubbles on the stream, or mountains in mist."

To Robert Scott Moncrieff, Esq:—

"March 11, 1845. "The Duke has offered £70 a year to pay a missionary. This is kind and generous, like himself. But I have no missionary; and, perhaps, at present, one is not much needed, and if he were, I cannot get a man who is worth the money. In these circumstances, the £70 is of no use to the parish; but my conviction is, that the half of this sum might be judiciously used in another way. I shall explain what I mean. You know that the grand obstacle in the way of filling our church with the poorer classes is the want of clothes. This is the excuse they make. In a great many cases it is the true cause of their neglect of ordinances. I know well, that of the hundreds here, who attend no place of worship in the world, a great per centage would, in their present state of depravity, absent themselves from public worship if they had all the clothes that their bodies could carry. There are too many drunken men and women (the worst of the two) who would pawn their clothes, and, if they could, would pawn themselves, for drink. But, I also know very many who I honestly believe would never be absent one day from the house of God, if they had the means of appearing there decently clad. There are parents who, during sickness, have pawned their clothes for food to give their children; and who, living from hand to mouth, have never been able to recover them. There are others who are industrious—women especially—who cannot from their small wages earn them. Such people attend my mission stations regularly. They have implored me to enable them to appear in church. One asks a pair of shoes, another a pair of trousers, another a shawl, another a gown; and they have done so with tears. I have twenty or thirty persons in these circumstances on my list. Now, I have assisted some of these out of my own pocket, and these persons are regularly in church. Why not employ (until we get a missionary) a part of this fund in supplying the wants of the best of such people? You, perhaps, may think that I may be deceived; possibly, I may. But as I have been for some years constantly amongst such people, I am not easily deceived. And may we not be deceived with a missionary, and lose the £70 in a lump? There is a chance of being deceived in some cases, and of losing a pound here and one-and-sixpence there; but on the other hand there is a greater chance of reclaiming people to habits of order and decency, of bringing into godly habits parents who never have been in church since they were children, who have never been at the sacrament, and whose children are unbaptized. Is it not worth while to make the trial? Unless something like this is done, my visiting of the parish is almost mere sham. I pass through the people like a stick through water. They receive me kindly, and they are just as they were when my back is turned. You ask me, then, what I want? I'll tell you: I want a sum of money in my own hand to try the experiment for one year. The Duke gives me £70 for the good of the parish; if he gets the good, he will not care, I am sure, how the money is expended. Let me only have the half. I will give you an account; of how I spend it. I will show you the results, and I am willing to stake my stipend that a dozen missionaries, trudging about with their gaiters and umbrellas, and preaching long, dry sermons, won't do so much good at first as £35 spent in my way."

To his Mother:—

"Dalkeith, March, 1845.

"Everything goes on smoothly. I have, ranged before me, a series of really beautiful coloured lithographs for my mission station. We are taught by the eye, as well as by the ear. The more ignorant we are, the less able are we to form ideas. Children in years and children in knowledge are the better of pictures; so think the Papists, who know human nature well. But they err, not in dealing with people who are children as children should be dealt with, but in keeping them children.

"There is a marked change in the town, whatever the reason may be. The police sergeant told me yesterday that the change during the last three months is incredible. Instead of ten a week in the lock-up for drunkenness, he has not had one case for a month; while the streets, formerly infested with low characters, are now as quiet as possible. This is gratifying, and should make us thank God and take courage.

"My geological lectures are over, I gave the twelfth last night; it was on the wisdom of God as displayed in the structure of the world, and I do think it must have been interesting even to those who knew nothing of the subject."

To his Sister Jane:—

"Dalkeith, 1844.

"I had a meeting on Monday last to petition against Maynooth; I intimated it from my pulpit. The meeting was good. I made a long speech ; was all alone. Although I believe I am the first, and, as far as I know, mine is the only parish belonging to our Church that has petitioned, I am so thankful I followed my own sense and did it. The fact is, we have passed through a revolution, the most serious by far in our time. Sir Robert has sapped the basis of Establishments ; he has capsized the principles of his party; he has alienated from him the confidence of the country, and inflicted a sore blow upon Protestantism. I declare solemnly I would leave my Manse and glebe to-morrow, if I could rescind that terrible vote for Maynooth. I cannot find words to express my deep conviction of the infatuation of the step. And all statesmen for it! Not one man to form a Protestant party!—not one! God have mercy on the country!" [Compare with these reflections the opinions expressed in Chapter XIII., May, 1854.]

From his Journal:—

"March 27th.—The connection between a right physical and right intellectual and moral state is a question of vast importance in connection with the supremacy and advancement of the Christian Church, i.e., the good and happiness of man. If it be true that through bad feeding, clothing, hard work, &c, there is a retrogression of the species, or families of the species, and vice versa, how important that a country, especially a Church, should attend to the physical wants of the people! I have heard it alleged that criminals, generally speaking, are an inferior race physically. Query, how much has Christianity advanced the human race by stimulating that charity that ' does good unto all men, especially unto those who are of the household of faith V The defect of most systems for benefitting man has arisen not so much from the presence of a bad element, as the absence of a good—from a minus, not a plus—from forgetting that man is an intellectual, social, moral, active, and sentient being, and that his well-being is advanced just in proportion as all these different parts of his nature are gratified. Better drainage, ventilation, poor laws, deal with his sentient part; and so far good. Reading-rooms, lectures, mechanics' institutes, cheap literature, deal with his intellectual, and are good, too. Amusements, coffee-houses, and some of the above, deal with his social, and are likewise good. The axiom, ' give the people always something to do,' deals with his active powers; the gospel and all the means of grace, with his moral nature; and as this is the mainspring of all he thinks and does, it is the most important of all; but it alone, as a system of truth separated from a system of action, which includes all reform, will not do. To preach a sermon, and refuse meat to the starving hearers, is mockery ; and so says St. James. To this I add, the necessity of a living, wise and Christian agency coming constantly into contact with men.

"It is a glorious night! 'The moon doth with delight look round her, and the heavens are bare.' How wonderful is the majestic calm of nature! how awing to the spirit this steadfast and unhalting march of God's plan in nature and providence! Man's wrath stays it not; many storms disturb it not. The stars twinkle as they did on Eve or on the waters of the Deluge. How comforting to think of the Mighty Hand which is guiding all! ' Be still, and know that I am God!'

"December 29th.—During this past year I have preached one hundred and twenty-six times in my own parish, besides sermons in mission stations. Helped to found thirty Missionary Associations for the support of female Education in India, in Elgin, Forres, Nairn, Inverness, Fort "William, Helensburgh, Dunoon, Perth, Dundee, Kilmarnock, Coldstream, Hawick, Greenock, and besides delivering addresses in Largs, Glasgow, Campsie, Dalkeith, Edinburgh College, written the 'Churchman's Catechism' (3,000 sold)."

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus