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Researches into the History of Tain
Chapter 3 - Conclusion

IN concluding these fragmentary notices, I cannot refrain from giving utterance to my feeling that few towns so small have as interesting and honourable a history to look back upon as ours. I own I am proud of my native burgh; and a chief object which I have had in view in the preparation of these lectures has been to strengthen a similar feeling in the rising generation of my fellow townsmen, so as to stimulate theta to emulate whatever deserves to be emulated in the actions of our forefathers; and to do what in them lies, besides, to maintain the character of their native place, and promote its welfare. Long may Tain be distinguished by such a spirit as was manifested by our ancestors at various epochs from the Reformation downwards—a spirit at once conservative of what was good, and willing to reform what was corrupt; a spirit reverently religious and submissive to rightful authority, yet enlightened to distinguish between true authority and false; and may an influence for real good thus ever emanate from our ancient town!

May I be permitted to express my earnest wish for her continued and increasing prosperity? She has lost, indeed, peculiar advantages which she once had, and some of these she cannot hope to regain. She cannot hope for any new charter to restore her a monopoly of trade among the towns and villages beside her, nor can she expect or wish that superstition should again draw royal pilgrims to her bounds. She cannot recover the territory of which the encroaching sea has robbed her, nor the natural beauties which the sea-sand on one side and the hand of cultivation on the other have removed. Yet she has important advantages still—a picturesque and healthy situation, a position not unfavourable for provincial trade, a fertile neighbourhood, a good municipal revenue, a beautiful and respectably endowed academy; and, along with these, she has beyond many towns the prestige of her past history to inspire her children with enthusiasm in her behalf, and to prompt them to zealous efforts for her good—such enthusiasm as that which has recently restored and beautified her ancient, historic church. But not all of these advantages will insure her prosperity on any other terms than that energetic use be made of them by her own inhabitants. On their personal and collective character, and on their intelligence and enterprise, it must depend whether her railway, for example, will act as an open vein to drain away the life-blood of trade from her streets, or as an artery in which the pulse of commerce will beat more vigorously than ever. So also of our academy; it manifestly depends on the character of the instruction and training to be obtained within it, whether the railway will carry our youth away from it to pursue their studies elsewhere, or carry the youth of the respectable ranks of society from other places to be educated here. Do I dream in thinking that by a wise enlargement and modification of its plan to meet the ever-rising educational demands of the age, with such a generous increase of its endowments as is requisite for that end; and by such intelligent earnest management as is necessary to keep alive the cordiality of public interest in it, it might be made in reality what it was originally designed to be by its energetic founder—the College of the North? Then, again, in reference to the amenity of our town, it needs only, but it does need, a continued exercise of that good taste and public spirit which our Magistrates, to their honour, have shown in the beautifying and preservation of the now narrowed links and in other improvements; and it needs the hearty sympathy and generous co-operation of the proprietors and occupants of lands all round the town, to replace the natural beauties we have lost with those which art can bestow; to give us, if not the old luxuriance of wild nature, at least the varied richness of cultivated fields and trees and hedgerows; and if not the old freedom with which in former days the youth of our place used to expatiate when and where they pleased, at least such agreeable combination of open and wooded walks, by sea-shore and winding river-bank, and from high-road across to high-road girdling the town, as would make it very fair to see and pleasant to live in. And, finally, while the faithfulness and even public spirit with which our municipal funds have for a good many years back been managed hardly admit of increase, this very fact encourages the hope that far-seeing wisdom and large- hearted comprehensiveness will characterise all their specific applications; so that they may be devoted to purposes that will contribute to raise our burgh to a greater height of prosperity, usefulness, and honour than it has ever yet attained.

I cannot conclude without casting a glance into a region of interest higher still. I could not have occupied so much time in the collection and preparation of these materials for the purpose of encouraging a feeling of affectionate enthusiasm in behalf of our native town, had I thought that this was inconsistent with the pursuit of an inconceivably more important end. I have already remarked, that the man who loves his native town may be not the less a lover of his native land; and not the less, let me now add, may he be a true subject of the kingdom of God and a citizen of heaven. There is a city that hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. No sea of change will ever waste its territory, or sap its everlasting walls. Its chartered privileges can never be lost; for they have been purchased with the blood of- the Lamb. Its generations shall never be removed by death, nor their memory forgotten in the grave. Its. inhabitants say not, "I am sick," for the people that dwell therein are forgiven their iniquity. In the daily routine of life, in the midst of private and public duties, each of us in our station, and not seeking to pass beyond it, we may, through divine grace, be preparing for that everlasting habitation. He who on earth has never passed the bounds of his own loved native town, as well as he who embraces in his sphere of effort the wider interests of his country and of the world, may be living a life of faith, and treading a path that brings him daily nearer God.

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