The Days of the Fathers in Ross-shire
by Rev. John Kennedy, D.D., of Dingwall
MINISTERS OF ROSS-SHIRE.
The Various Classes of Ministers — Eminence in the Ministry — How attained Character of the Eminent Ministers — Mr Hogg — Mr M'Killigan — Mr Fraser — Mr Porteous — Mr M'Phail — Mr Calder — Mr Lachlan Mackenzie — Mr Macadam — Dr Macintosh — Mr Forbes — Dr Macdonald.
A LIST of the ministers of Ross-shire would be a very checkered one. It would present many grades of talent, from the man of genius down to the dunce; many varieties of religion, from the man of singular godliness down to the scoffer; and many shades of popularity, from the man whom all revered down to the man whom all despised.
A roll of its ministers in its worst days, would be much more uniform than such a roll in its best. There were times in Ross-shire, when its ministers cared not to affect much godliness, and were not suspected of having any at all. Such, at least, were the two sets of curates; some of whom may have sunk further down in ignorance and immorality than the rest, but to eminence for learning and piety, none of whom were known to aspire. But in the best days of Ross-shire there was no monotony of character among the clergy. It was just then that strongly marked specimens of both the good and the bad might be found. The more eminent the Lord made His ministers, by the measure of grace which He gave them, the more difficult Satan must have found it to insert a seemly hypocrite among them. The places which were filled up by the enemy, he succeeded in possessing, not by deceiving the judgment of the Church, but by employing the power of the world. The skilled labourers, whom the Lord sent to His vineyard, were not easily imitated, and the others would not try to be like them. Some of these, therefore, began to follow the lairds, when they could not copy the preachers; they would be real gentlemen, and cared not about being real ministers at all. Others, too rude for the drawing-room, and too keen in their enmity to refrain from perse cution, were given to annoying the ministers who preached, and the people who loved, the doctrines of grace. A few were so gross in their conduct, that they seemed as if Satan, despairing of fashioning them into plausible hypocrites, had let them fall into the mire to which their sensuality inclined them, that he might prepare them as a nuisance, since he could not use them as a snare. Getting them into the ministry, he had the power to keep them, on the elevation of their office, before the eyes of the faithful, that he might grieve their hearts by the vileness which could not possibly deceive them. Among the Lord's own ministers, there was variety also. Some were more gifted, some more godly, and some more successful than others, but among them might surely be found men, as like to their Master, and as fitted for their work, as Christ ever gave to the Church since the days of the apostles.
The godly ministers of Ross-shire may be divided into three classes. There are a few whose names tower above these of all others, and to whom, by universal consent, the first place would be given. These alone are now to be specially noticed; but in the memories of those who are acquainted with the history of the gospel in Ross-shire, about thirty names will rise up, forming a second class, of men who were faithful in their day and accepted in their work. But the list of these would not exhaust the whole number of the ministers, whom the Lord claimed as His servants. Beneath them there wrought, with more slender gifts, and with smaller success, some whose names are now scarcely remembered, but who were for Christ on the earth, and who are now with Him in heaven.
It was neither by talents, nor by learning, nor by oratory, nor was it by all these together, that a leading place was attained by the ministers in the Highlands; but by a profound experience of the power of godliness, a clear view of the doctrines of grace, peculiar nearness to God, a holy life, and a blessed ministry. Without these, without all these, a high place would not be assigned to them either by the Lord or by men. Eminence thus reached is surely the holiest and the highest; and it is a healthful state of matters when the attainment of it otherwise is rendered impossible. In other portions of the Church, a minister might become famous as an ecclesiastic, an orator, or a scholar, who, merely for his godliness, would be utterly unknown. But mere gifts and acquirements were but little accounted of in the north. Few opportunities for displaying them, apart from the pulpit, were presented to those who may have had them, and the unsanctified use of them there would earn only the distinction of disgrace. Most ungracious, indeed, would have been the treatment by the people of the north, in the good days of the fathers, of such preach ing as is to be found in "The Religion of Common Life," and even in "The Gospel in Ezekiel." Worthless, because Christless, would they have deemed the religion commended in the former; and even the latter, giving them rather more of the poetry in Guthrie than of the gospel in Ezekiel, would have found but small favour at their hands.
But the ministry in Ross-shire furnishes no exception to the rule, that on the man whom He makes eminent in His Church the Lord bestows excellent gifts, as surely as an unusual measure of grace. Among them were men of distinguished talent; a few of them were men of genius; and the lowest of them stood at least on a level with the average ministry of the Church, in point of literary acquirements. If they earned no fame for mere talent and learning, it was because, having once cast their gifts and acquirements at the feet of their Master, they cared not to bear them aloft for the admiration of their fellows; and because they occupied places, in a quiet portion of the Church, from which they were not called to the construction or defence of the outworks - the service in which the lustre of talent and of learning finds most occasion to appear. They were allowed to devote themselves almost exclusively to the more spiritual duties of their calling; and they had learned, in that sphere, to dispense with "excellency of speech and of wisdom."
Each of them would have been distinguished as a Christian, though he had never been a minister. There are ministers who find all their Christianity in their office, having had none of it before in their hearts. Far otherwise was it with the godly fathers in Ross-shire. With two exceptions, they had all been Christians before they were office-bearers, and some of them from their earliest years. Nor were they ordinary Christians. Their deep experience of the work of the Spirit, their clear views of the doctrines of grace, their peculiar nearness to God, and their holy watchfulness, would have made them eminent among the godly, though they never had a place among the clergy. Each of them had his own peculiarity of experience, but all of them were deeply exercised in a life of godliness; each had his favourite department of truth, while lovingly embracing the whole, but all of them were "skilful in the word of righteousness;" some of them were favoured with more intimate communion with the Lord than the others, but they were all "a people near unto Him;" each one was distinguished by some peculiar grace, but they all lived "soberly, righteously and godly in a present evil world." In every respect they differed from each other, but in their common resemblance to their Father in Heaven; but, owing to this, they were all recognized, even by the world, as brethren in the Lord.
As preachers they were all remarkable. There are some who preach before their people, like actors on the stage, to display themselves and to please their audience. Not such were the self-denied preachers of Ross-shire. There are others who preach over their people. Studying for the highest, instead of doing so for the lowest, in intelligence, they elaborate learned treatises, which float like mist, when delivered over the heads of their hearers. Not such were the earnest preachers of Ross-shire. There are some who preach past their people. Directing their praise or their censure to intangible abstractions, they never take aim at the views and the conduct of the individuals before them. They step carefully aside, lest their hearers should be struck by their shafts, and aim them at phantoms beyond them. Not such were the faithful preachers of Ross-shire. There are others who preach at their people, serving out in a sermon the gossip of the week, and seemingly pos sessed with the idea, that the transgressor can be scolded out of the ways of iniquity. Not such were the wise preachers of Ross-shire. There are some who preach towards their people. They aim well, but they are weak. Their eye is along the arrow towards the hearts of their hearers, but their arm is too feeble for sending it on to the mark. Superficial in their experience and in their knowledge, they reach not the cases of God s people by their doctrine, and they strike with no vigour at the consciences of the ungodly. Not such were the powerful preachers of Ross-shire. There are others still, who preach along their congregation. Instead of standing with their bow in front of the rank, these archers take it in line, and reducing their mark to an individual, never change the direction of their aim. Not such were the discriminating preachers of Ross-shire. But there are a few who preach to the people directly and seasonably the mind of God in His word, with authority, unction, wisdom, fervour, and love. Such as these last were the eminent preachers of Ross-shire.
While all of them were excellent, each of them was peculiar; and their variety was as necessary as their skill. In apt and striking illustration Porteous and Mackenzie excelled, and have left more memorable sayings behind them than any of the others; Calder and Macphail preached in clear, unctuous words filled full of Christ crucified, while from their manner and language all was carefully excluded that might withdraw the minds of their hearers from the spiritual import of the message which they carried; for exactness of exposition, and precision of statement, Macadam and Forbes were second to none; Dr Mackintosh was eminent in solemnity and power; and for clearness and skill in unfolding the doctrines of grace, and in fervent appeals to the Christless, Fraser and Macdonald excelled them all.
Their preaching was remarkable for its completeness. It combined careful exposition, fulness and exactness of doctrinal statement, a searching description of experimental godliness, and close application of truth to the conscience. The admixture of these elements, in wisely-adjusted proportions, constitutes the true excellence of preaching. Careful to ascertain the mind of Cod in His Word, they were not content merely to prefix a passage of Scripture as a motto to their sermon. They chose to preach from a text, rather than to discourse on a subject. They did not try what they themselves could say about it, but to tell what the Lord said through it, to their hearers. But, while careful expounders, they were systematic theologians as well. They clearly saw, and they clearly taught, "the form of sound doctrine." No loose statement of doctrine would satisfy them, and yet no men were further than they from being frozen into the stiffness of a cold, lifeless orthodoxy. Their zeal for a sound creed was at least equalled by their desire for a godly experience and a holy life. They loved "the form of sound doctrine," but they also loved "the power of godliness." They insisted on a clear understanding of the former, but they also insisted on a deep experience of the latter. It is in fashion to speak of objective and subjective preaching, and to commend each by itself as excellent in its way; but surely that preaching is defective, that presents a statement of doctrine without any description of the experience which the application of that doctrine produces, or of the fruits in which that experience results; and preaching without distinct doctrinal statement is like attempting to build without a plummet or a plan.
Their preaching was distinguished by the minuteness with which the Lord guided them, to speak to the varied cases of their hearers. In this respect they were quite singular; and many marvellous instances of this might be given. Some of these might be easily accounted for. In dealing with the cases of God's people, a minister, acquainted with the power of godliness, will be sure to have a counterpart, in his own experience, of many of the fears, hopes, and enjoyments of those whom he addresses. Speaking from the heart, he will be sure to speak to the heart; declaring what he himself has felt, he will be sure to express the feelings of others. When the honour the Lord has been wont to put on the ordinance of preaching, and His tender care of His children are taken into account, who will limit the degree of minuteness to which the Lord's guidance may be given, in adapting the message sent by His servant to the varied feelings of the hearers? Words marvellously seasonable have been often thus spoken, to account for which no prophetic gift should be ascribed to the preacher. The pressing need of a beloved child had to be seasonably met, and the Lord revived, in the memory of His servant, a corresponding experience, and guided him to tell it, and this is often the whole secret of the matter. There have been, however, instances of "words in season" that cannot thus be explained. Some more direct guidance of the speaker's mind was required, and some more abrupt impression must have been produced of the case, to which the Lord was sending a leaf from the tree of life, or an arrow from the quiver of the law. Care will be taken that any such instances as may be given, shall be accurately stated rather than satisfactorily explained.
Of all of them, without exception, it may be affirmed, that they were scrupulously careful in their preparation for the pulpit. These were not men to offer to the Lord that which cost them nothing. Their aim in studying was not the construction of a finished or a pleasing sermon. Mere sermon-making was not their work. They sought to know what message the Lord was giving them, and to be prepared to deliver it in the manner most accordant with the gifts conferred on themselves, and most suitable to the circumstances and attainments of their hearers. Each had his own way of studying, as surely as his own way of preaching. Four of the Ross-shire fathers were once comparing notes on this subject. "I like," one of them said, "to have my subject determined and my skeleton arranged, on the Sabbath evening." "I devote," the second said, "a portion of each day of the week to the preparation of my sermon." "I don't begin to write till Friday," the third said." "But I," added the fourth, "am so dependent on wind and tide, that I can act according to no rule; I sometimes have my sermon ready days before I deliver it, and sometimes it is not ready till it is preached." On another occasion the same number of eminent ministers united in declaring, as the result of their experience, that none had ever come to tell them of any part of what they had preached from memory having been felt to be "a word in season;" and that any word, ascertained by them to have been fitly spoken, was suggested to their minds during the course of the sermon. This circumstance, so carefully removing all grounds of boasting, they, at the same time, regarded, as not furnishing the shadow of a reason for relaxing their diligence in the careful preparation of their sermons. All of them were distinguished as men of prayer. Without this, they would not have had their godliness as Christians, nor their success as ministers. One of them would spend whole nights in prayer; another would forget his daily meals amidst the wrestlings of the closet; and in the study of another the rug on which he usually knelt would, in a few months, be quite worn through. But all of them, like these, were given unto prayer, and were admitted into peculiar nearness to the Lord. Their abounding in prayer made it safe and healthful to abound also in labours. Their public work was to them no wasting bustle, for in communion with the Lord, their strength was recruited in the closet. Wrestling for grace with the Lord, and labouring with grace for the Lord, no blight was permitted to rest on their soul or their service. Prevailing with God as they pled for men, they prevailed with men as they pled for God.
As pastors, they watched for souls as those who must give account unto God. Commanding the respect of the people, they were allowed to deal with them according to the authority of their office. They were strict and faithful, but tender and wise in the exercise of discipline. They were not much given to the formalities of stated visiting. It was not their habit to cross a certain number of thresholds every year. They did what was better for themselves and their flocks, for they visited them often in spirit, as they went to carry them on their hearts to the footstool of mercy. They obtained a more thorough knowledge of the views and feelings of their people from one course of catechising, than they could from the perfunctory visiting of a life time; and if there was awanting to them, from the people, the merely carnal attachment, that may be won by the civilities of "the minister's call," the authority of their office was intact; and even from the conscience of the unconverted their godly life failed not to secure its tribute of respect.
The name of THOMAS HOGG is the earliest that rises into eminence. From the interesting memoir of him which has been so widely circulated, it is evident that, while both a gentleman and a scholar, he was a Christian of singular godliness, enjoying very intimate communion with God, and a minister of rare devotedness, whose labours were abundantly blessed.
Next in eminence, among those of the five non- conforming ministers of Ross-shire, stands the name of JOHN M'KILLIGAN. He received a unanimous call from the people of Fodderty, September 4, 1655. On the 25th of the same month, he writes to the Presbytery, "that divers difficulties and perplexities made him unable to give a peremptory answer for the time." He was then in Morayshire, and thither Mr Hogg was twice sent by the Presbytery to deal with him in reference to the call. In the month of January following, he intimated his acceptance to the Presbytery, and his ordination took place on the 26th of February 1656. Of his ministry at Fodderty no account can be given. In 1661 he unhesitatingly and at once took his stand against prelacy. He was then the only minister who did so; for Mr Hogg was unable, owing to the state of his health, to bear any public testimony so soon, and the others remained for some time in their charges. A presentation was offered to him by the patron, but as "he reckoned the acceptance of that as destroying the foundation which God had laid in His Church, to the maintenance of which he was bound by solemn oath," he conclusively declined to accept it. In 1663 he was summarily ejected from his manse, which he continued to occupy after demitting his charge, to make room for Mr John Mackenzie, who, swollen by prelacy into the vastness of an archdeacon, required the whole house to contain him. In the same year he is summoned to give his reasons to the conclave of curates, his former co-Presbyters, for not asking from any of them baptism for his child; and, having been cited by the bishop before his diocesan meeting, and refusing to appear, a sentence of deposition was passed against him, "for his absenting himself from the diocesan meeting, his not answering the citation to appear before him when called, and his preaching, praying, and reasoning against prelatical government."
Removed from Fodderty he took up his residence on his own property at Alness. Till 1676 he continued to preach there and in other places to the few who would assemble to hear him, and his labours were greatly blessed by the Lord. A strong desire having been felt by those who profited by his preaching to partake of the sacrament of the Supper, though under the ban of the Council and the watchful eyes of Bishop Paterson's police, he resolved to dispense that ordinance in September 1675. The little congregation met in the house of the dowager Lady of Fowlis at Obsdale, in the parish of Rosskeen. Mr M'Killigan was assisted by Mr Hugh Anderson, minister of Cromarty, and Mr Alexander Fraser, minister of Teviut. Mr Anderson preached the pre paration sermon on Saturday, Mr M'Killigan officiated on Sabbath in the forenoon, and Mr Fraser in the afternoon, and Mr M'K. preached the thanksgiving discourse on Monday. During this last service there was such a plentiful effusion of the Spirit that the oldest Christians then present declared they had never enjoyed such a time of refreshing before. "In short," says Wodrow, "there were so sensible and glorious discoveries made by the Son of Man, and such evident presence of the Master of Assemblies, this day and the preceding, the people seemed to be in a transport, and their souls filled with heaven, and breathing thither while they were upon the earth; and some were almost at that Whether in the body or out of the body, I cannot tell." A man, hitherto careless about the state of his soul, had gone to that blessed meeting, impelled by mere curiosity, like the chief publican of old. The God of Zaccheus met him at Obsdale; and on his return from the meeting, one of his neighbours said to him, "What a fool you were to have gone; you will suffer the loss of all your goods for what you have done." "You are more to be pitied," he replied, "for not having been there; as for me, if the Lord would maintain in me what I hope I have won to, I would not only part with my cow and my horse, and these are my only earthly possessions, but with my head likewise if called to it."
Information having been given to the bishop, by some of his spies, of Mr M'Killigan s intention to dispense the sacrament, he instigated Sir Roderick Mackenzie of Findon to send a party of soldiers to apprehend him. On Sabbath, while the little congregation was assembled at Obsdale, the soldiers came to Alness, expecting that Mr M'Killigan would have dispensed the sacrament there. To make amends for their disappointment, they began to pillage the minister's orchard, and, finding his apples to be particularly good, they remained long enough in the garden to allow them to close the forenoon service at Obsdale. The soldiers then received information of the actual meeting place, but before they could reach it, the congregation had dispersed, and Mr M'Killigan was safe in his hiding-place. Missing him, the party sent to apprehend him returned; and after they were gone, the ministers and people assembled again, and found that the Bridegroom had reserved the best wine to the close. But in the strength of the food then provided, the Christians who feasted at Obsdale had to go many days. Mr M'Killigan was compelled to abscond, and for several years he and his flock were prevented from meeting together again.
Having gone to Cromarty, to baptize the child of Mr Anderson, the deposed Presbyterian minister there, he was apprehended by a party of the Earl of Seaforth's followers. The night before his apprehension, "he was trysted," says Wodrow, "with an odd enough passage, which he could not but remark. When he fell asleep he dreamed that there were three men come to the house to apprehend him; he was no observer of dreams, and therefore when he awakened he endeavoured to be freed of the thoughts of what he had been dreaming, and composed himself to sleep; but, upon his falling asleep, he dreamed it a second time, and awoke; and again, after he had essayed to banish the thoughts of it, and falling asleep again, he dreamed it a third time. This awakened him with some concern, and he began to apprehend there might be more than ordinary in it, and fell under the impression that bonds and imprisonment were abiding him, and arose to compose himself, by committing his case to the Lord." Before he was dressed the party sent to apprehend him were in the house. Confined for sometime in the prison at Fortrose, he was after wards removed to Nairn. Kindness shown to him by Sir Hugh Campbell of Cawdor, provoked his accusers to insist on his removal to Edinburgh. After lying in the Tolbooth for a short time, he was sent as a prisoner to the Bass. The time spent by him there, which his enemies desired to make a season of distress, the Lord so sweetened by His presence that he could say, "Since I was a prisoner I dwelt at ease and securely." But while his soul was joyful in the Lord, his body contracted the disease which ultimately terminated in his death. In 1679, he was liberated on bail, offered by Sir Hugh Campbell, who had formerly befriended him. Returning to Ross-shire, he resumed his work among the little flock that gathered around him in Alness, much to the joy of his people, and as much to the annoyance of the curates. But in 1683 he was again apprehended, and sent to the Bass. It was again to him a Bethel. Becoming dangerously ill, he petitioned for liberty to remove to Edinburgh, and the Council, on the intercession of Sir Hugh Campbell, granted his request. His health not improving, he was permitted, in 1 686, to return to Ross-shire, where he continued to officiate in a meeting house, erected by his attached followers in Alness, till the Revolution. Called in 1688 to Inverness, his people, owing to the state of his health, consented to his removal, but he preached there but seldom. Exhausted by all his labours and sufferings, his bodily strength rapidly declined, and he entered into his rest on the 8th of June 1689.
In 1725, Mr JAMES FRASER was ordained minister of Alness. He was presented by the Presbytery, and was at first acceptable to all the people; but some of the lairds organised a factious opposition to his induction, using all their influence with their retainers and tenants against him. The session and all the communicants remained stedfast, in the face of all the power of the lairds, but a great number of the people who had at first signed his call, were induced to oppose him as the time for ordaining him approached. When the Presbytery met to induct him, they found the doors of the church shut and guarded against them, and the solemn service was conducted in a corner of the graveyard. An appeal against the ordination was taken to the Synod, and thereafter to the Assembly, but the Presbytery's conduct was ultimately approved of, and Mr Fraser confirmed in his charge. His induction did take place in the face of opposition, but the Presbytery were, in this case, in conflict only with those who interfered with the free choice of the people.
Mr Fraser is the only one of all the Ross-shire fathers who is well known as an author. His work on sanctification gives the most satisfactory explanation of that difficult portion of Scripture expounded in it, which has yet been produced. For exact analysis, polemical skill, and wise practical application of the truth, there are very few works which excel it. The specimens of his sermons which have been published, entitle him to a very high place among the true preachers of the gospel. Full, clear, and unctuous in their statements of gospel truth, close and searching in their practical uses of doctrine, tender and wise in the counsels and encouragements given to believers, and solemn and powerful in appeals to the unconverted, they furnish a strong contrast to the fashionable preaching of these days, with its vague, hazy statements of doctrine, its wholesale application of gospel comforts, and its flowers to please the taste, instead of arrows to pierce the conscience of the ungodly.
His preaching, at least during a great part of his ministry, was mainly directed to the awakening and conversion of sinners, and was not so edifying and consoling to the Lord's people as that of some others of the fathers in Ross-shire. He did preach Christ crucified, and spake comfort to the broken-hearted, but this was not the peculiarity of his preaching. But the preponderance of the other element was of God, and He greatly blessed his preaching for fulfilling the end to which it was mainly directed. Many were awakened under his ministry, but some of these went elsewhere to get healing for their wounds. Each Sabbath not a few of his people were accustomed to go to Kilmuir, to hear the famous Mr Porteous. So many were at last in the habit of going, that the Kilmuir congregation began to complain of the over crowded state of the church; and though willing to bear some inconvenience for the sake of those who could not find the Gospel at home, they had no patience for the fugitives from Alness. His session at last spoke to Mr Porteous about it, and begged of him to confer with Mr Fraser, "for the people who come from Alness," they said, "tell us that their minister preaches, almost so exclusively, the law, that those who seek the bread of life must starve under his ministry, and are compelled to come hither for food and for healing." Meeting Mr Fraser soon after, at a funeral, Mr Porteous said to him, "It gives me, my dear brother, grief of heart, to see some of your people in the church of Kilmuir every Sabbath. My elders tell me, that those who come to us complain of your preaching almost entirely to the unconverted, and that the 'poor in spirit' can get no food for their souls. Now, my dear brother, if the Lord gives it to you, I pray you not to withhold their portion from the people of the Lord, which you can dispense to them as I never could." "My dear brother," was Mr Fraser's striking reply, "when my Master sent me forth to my work, He gave me a quiver full of arrows, and He ordered me to cast these arrows at the hearts of his enemies till the quiver was empty. I have been endeavouring to do so, but the quiver is not empty yet. When the Lord sent you forth, He gave you a cruse of oil, and His orders to you were, to pour the oil on the wounds of broken-hearted sinners, till the cruse was empty. Your cruse is no more empty than is my quiver. Let us both then continue to act on our respective orders, and as the blessing from on high shall rest on our labours, I will be sending my hearers with wounded hearts to Kilmuir, and you will be sending them back to Alness rejoicing in the Lord." Quite overcome with this beautiful reply, Mr Porteous said, "Be it so, my beloved brother;" and, after a warmer embrace than they hid ever exchanged before, they parted. Surely this was a rare exhibition of self-denial and brotherly love !
A cold, unfeeling, bold, unheeding, worldly woman was his wife. Never did her godly husband sit down to a comfortable meal in his own house, and often would he have fainted from sheer want of needful sustenance but for the considerate kindness of some of his parishioners. She was too insensate to try to hide her treatment of him, and well was it for him, on one account, that she was. His friends thus knew of his ill-treatment, and were moved to do what they could for his comfort. A godly acquaintance arranged with him, to leave a supply of food in a certain place, beside his usual walk, of which he might avail him self when starved at home. Even light and fire in his study were denied to him on the long, cold winter evenings; and as his study was his only place of refuge from the cruel scourge of his wife's tongue and temper, there, shivering, and in the dark, he used to spend his winter evenings at home. Compelled to walk in order to keep himself warm, and accustomed to do so when preparing for the pulpit, he always kept his hands before him as feelers in the dark, to warn him of his approaching the wall at either side of the room. In this way he actually wore a hole through the plaster, at each end of his accustomed beat, on which some eyes have looked that glistened with light from other fire than that of love, at the remembrance of his cruel wife. But the godly husband had learned to thank the Lord for the discipline of this trial. Being once at a Presbytery dinner, alone, amidst a group of moderates, one of them proposed, as a toast, the health of their wives, and, turning to Mr Fraser, said, as he winked at his companions, "You, of course, will cordially join in drinking to this toast." "So I will, and so I ought," Mr Fraser said, "for mine has been a better wife to me than any one of yours has been to you." "How so?" they all exclaimed. "She has sent me," was his reply, "seven times a day to my knees, when I would not otherwise have gone, and that is more than any of you can say of yours." On the day on which her godly husband entered into his eternal rest, and a very few hours after his death, some of the elders, on learning the sad tidings, hurried with stricken hearts and in tears to the manse. To their horror, they found Mrs Fraser outside feeding her poultry. Approaching her, one of them said, sobbing as he spoke, "So Mr Eraser has gone to his rest." "Oh yes, the poor man died this morning," she said, as she scattered the corn among the fowls ; "if you want to see the body you may go in - chick, chick, chick." Whether horror of the living, or sorrow for the dead, was the deepest feeling in the good men's breasts, both must have mingled in the anguish of their hearts as they hurried to the chamber of the dead.
Seven years after Mr Eraser's induction at Alness, Mr JOHN PORTEOUS was ordained minister of Kilmuir. He was born in Inverness. In his youth he received an excellent education, and became distinguished as a classical scholar. Soon after his license, he was presented to Daviot, but the people of that parish would not receive him, and he was not one who would consent to be intruded into a charge. The people may err as well as patrons, as did the people of Daviot on this occasion; but when the former err, it is in the abuse of a power which right fully belongs to them, but when the latter presents an unsuitable minister, he doubly sins, for he has usurped a power that belongs to others, and employs it to the injury of those from whom he has robbed it. At Kilmuir he was cordially received by the body of the people. At the very outset of his ministry, he got his place as a man of God over his flock, and the blessing of the Lord rested on his earliest labours among them. As a preacher, he was quite peculiar. Of all the famous preachers in the north, next to Mr Lachlan, he was the most successful in rivetting the attention of his hearers. His power of illustration was great, and he could make a safe and dexterous use of allegory. His metaphors were always apt, if not always poetical. His care was to use them as illustrations rather than as ornaments. He never tried to embellish, but he laboured to simplify his discourses.
In his pastoral intercourse with his people, he was remarkably winning and wise. Being fond of flowers, and afraid that he might forget his flock while engaged in cultivating his garden, he connected with each plant he reared the name of some godly parishioner or acquaintance. It was, to his mind, congenial employment, to trace analogies between the varieties of flowers in his garden and the varieties of character in his parish; and having succeeded in attaching each flower to its antitype, in his mind and memory, his employment in the garden never allowed him to forget that he was a watchman for souls. A broken-hearted, humble, timid Christian once found the minister in his garden when he called upon him. Bringing him beside a plant of violet, and pointing to it, "There you are," Mr Porteous said. "That dark uncomely thing, without flower or fruit, is truly like me," remarked his visitor, as he looked down on it. "Yes, it is indeed like you," rejoined the minister, as he opened up its leaves and exposed its flowers, "for it is a lowly fragrant plant, that usually hides its beauty, and whose sweetness is most felt, when it is most closely searched and pressed." A young man who had been recently awakened, came to him as he was walking among his flowers. He described his feelings, and the minister listened in silence, but he had no flower to which, to point the inquirer, and did not speak a word to him, till a toad was observed crawling across the path, on which they were walking. "Do you see that?" the minister asked, pointing to the toad. "I do," the young man answered, and they passed on, and, with out another word from the minister, they parted. A second and a third time, there was a repetition of what occurred at their first interview. But when, a fourth time, the youth's attention was called to the crawling toad, "It would be well for me," he said, "were I that toad without a soul that can be lost for ever." "I can speak to you now," his minister said. He judged his wound not to have been deep enough before, but now he entered into close and earnest conversation with him about the way of healing. There may have been thereafter a type of this young man among the flowers in the minister's garden.
Enjoying much of the Lord's presence in preaching, and a rich blessing resting on his labours, it was no wonder that he should have to bear many a rude assault of "the wicked one." He could be no stranger to Satan's devices; for having so many of the Lord's children to feed, it was needful that he should, as their pastor, be passed through their trials, besides as a Christian experiencing his own. Speaking to a pious woman once of some temptation by which he was greatly afflicted, she said, "Be patient under the Lord's training; the temptations of his people must be given sevenfold to the minister, if he is to be a minister indeed."
His personal appearance was striking. Unusually tall, erect in his figure, light in his step, and scrupulously exact in his dress, he was very unlike the picture a Southern would be disposed to draw, of the Highland country ministry of a century ago. He never married, and, unburdened with the cares of this life, it might truly of him have been said: "He careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord." He quietly fell asleep in Jesus, in the attitude of prayer, alone with the Lord, on the seventh day of January 1775, in the 84th year of his age. His ministry in Kilmuir extended over forty- three years.
The following notes of Mr Porteous' preaching were often given, with great effect, in Gaelic, by Dr M'Donald. The reader must find out for himself the lessons of the allegories. It is impossible to translate them without blunting their point; but even in starched English they may give an idea of how Mr Porteous succeeded in arresting the attention of his hearers, in getting access to their understanding, and in fixing the truth in their memory: -
"A traveller, while passing through a desert, was overtaken by a storm. So violent was the tempest, that he at last despaired of surviving it. Just as hope died within him, his eye was caught by a light that glimmered in the distance, and he hastened his steps to reach it. Arriving at the place where it shone, he sees an open house, entering which, he finds himself in an apartment, with a fire on the hearth, and a seat placed beside it. He sat down, and making himself as comfortable as possible, he felt happy at his escape from the storm that was still raging without. On entering, he had seen nothing but what has already been noticed; but about midnight, happening to look round, he saw a dead body lying in a corner of the room. The corpse having begun to rise, as he looked at it, the poor man became dreadfully frightened, and as the dead was rising higher and higher, he rushed to the door to escape from the house. But the storm was still so violent that he dared not go out, and no choice was left to him but to return to his place by the fire. For a time the corpse was at rest, but he could not keep his eyes off the corner where it lay; and as he looked, it began to rise, and now higher than before. Again he sprung from his seat, but, instead of rushing to the door, he this time fell on his knees. As he knelt, the dead body lay back again, and he ventured once more to his seat by the hearth. He had not long been there, when up again rises the corpse, and now still higher than formerly; so on his knees again he fell. Observing that only while he was kneeling the dead lay still, he rose not again from his knees till the day had broken, and the shadows fled away."
"A farmer in Kilmuir was once engaged in thrashing corn. Having been busy all day, there was a considerable heap on the floor at night, as the result of his labour. But when he came back to his barn next morning, all the thrashed corn was away. This occurred a second and a third time, till the farmer could bear it no longer. So he resolved to watch all night, as well as work all day. Having done so, he had not been long waiting, when the thief appeared, and began to gather up the corn. Leaping upon him, the farmer tried to put him down, that he might either bind him or hold him there till help arrived. But the thief proved the stronger of the two, and he had laid the farmer on his back, and had almost quite strangled him, when a friend came to his rescue. Having hold of the thief, after the farmer was on his legs again, his friend said to him, 'What will be done to the thief?' 'Oh, bind him, was the answer, and give him to me on my back, and I will set off at once with him to the prison at Tain.' His friend did as he requested, and off set the farmer with his burden. But as he went out of sight of his friend, in a hollow of the road, the thief, with one effort breaking the cords that bound him, fell upon the farmer, and gave him even a rougher handling than before. He would utterly have perished, had not his faithful friend just come up in time again to save him. 'What will now be done?' his friend again asked. The answer was the same as before, only he added, 'I will be more careful this time.' So again he started with his troublesome burden on his back, and all was quiet, till he came to a dark part of the road, through the woods of Calrossie, when the fastenings were again broken, and the farmer maltreated even worse than before. Once again his friend comes to his help, but now the farmer would not part with him, till he had accompanied him to the prison. His request was granted, the jail reached, the thief locked up, and the farmer, forgetting his friend in his delight at getting rid of his tormentor, with a light step, set out for his home. Just as he had banished all fear from his heart, and was indulging in anticipations of peace for the future, in a moment the thief, having escaped from his cell, and hurried to overtake him, sprang upon him from behind, and, with even more than his former fury, threw the poor farmer to the ground, and would have now killed him outright, had not the wonted help just come in the time of need. Once, again, his friend asked, 'What will now be done?' The farmer, worried and wearied, cast himself at his feet, and, seizing him with both his hands, cried, 'Let the day never dawn on which thou and I shall for a moment be parted, for without thee I can do nothing.' "
"The eagle is said to renew its age. Old age comes on, and its end seems near, but, instead of passing out of life, it passes into youth again. It is commonly believed in the Highlands, that its decay is owing to its bill becoming so long and so bent, that it cannot take up its food, and that, on that account, it pines from want of nourishment. The manner in which it is said to renew its age is, by letting itself fall on a rock, by which means its bill is broken down to its proper size, its power to feed is restored, and youth begins again. That is but a legend, but this is truth, even that thy soul's strength, O believer, can only be renewed by thy letting thyself fall on Christ, the rock of ages."
MR HECTOR M'PHAIL, of Resolis, was a minister for several years before his conversion. He had married a daughter of the godly Mr Balfour, minister of Nigg. She had been one of Mr Porteous' hearers, and had profited greatly by his preaching. Feeling painfully the difference between her husband's doctrine and that to which she had been accustomed, she told him, on a Sabbath morning, soon after their marriage, that her soul was starving, and that, as all must give place to her care for its welfare, she had resolved to go on that day across to Kilmuir. He offered no opposition; he even accompanied her to the ferry. It was a sad journey the pious wife took that day to Kilmuir. Arriving at the manse, before the hour for beginning the service in church, Mr Porteous was not a little surprised to see her, and on meeting her, asked very anxiously why she had come. She told him that as her soul was famished at Resolis, she was compelled to come for the bread of life to the place where she had been wont to receive it. Mr Porteous retired to his study, and, on rejoining her, said, "If I am not greatly deceived, you will not long have the same reason for leaving Resolis, for I expect that the Lord will soon give you, by the hand of your husband, the very finest of the wheat." His expectation was not disappointed. After parting with his wife on that morning, the fact of her desertion of his ministry made a deep impression on Mr M'Phail's mind. Conscience testified that she was right; a deep sense of his unfitness for the work of the ministry was produced, and a process of conviction then began, that extended over several years. At last, he resolved to demit his charge, and to declare his resolution of doing so publicly before his congregation. With this view, he sent for Mr Fraser of Alness, to preach on a week-day in his church, and to intimate, after sermon, his resignation of his charge. Mr Fraser came and preached, but with no intention of giving the required intimation. During the sermon delivered on that day, Mr M'Phail's bonds were loosed, and before the service was over, he was in no mood to turn his back on the work of preaching Christ to sinners. Full of hope and gladness, he escorted Mr Fraser next day to the Alness ferry, and on his way back, he called at the house of one of his elders, who had spent many an hour, wrestling with the Lord for his minister. "What news to-day, Mr M'Phail?" the elder asked. "Good news," he said; "Hector M'Phail is not to preach to you any more." "Oh, I expected other news than that," the elder said, "for I don't reckon that to be good news." "Hector M'Phail is not to preach any more," his minister explained, "but the Spirit of the Lord is to preach to you through him." "Oh, that is good news, indeed," cried the elder in an ecstacy of joy. From that day till his death, Mr M'Phail was one of the most faithful, fervent, prayerful, and successful of ministers. Remembering his unfaithfulness during the years of his ignorance, he had resolved never to omit an opportunity of speaking to a fellow-creature, about the things belonging to his peace. He was enabled to fulfil his vow. The cases of Luke Heywood, and the Highland kitchen-maid, are well-known instances of how the Lord countenanced his faithful dealing with individuals.
He was much given to pastoral visitation of his parish. Throwing the rein on the neck of the well-known grey pony, as he mounted after breakfast, at whatever door it stopped, he alighted and entered the house. The neighbours would immediately assemble, and he would expound a portion of Scripture and pray with them. Then, remounting, he would go, as the pony carried him, to some other place, and would occupy the remainder of the day in the manner in which he began it. On one of his excursions through the parish, he was observed striking with his cane a dog that lay beside the door of a house as he passed. Being asked why he had done so, he answered, "He was so like myself, as he lay dumb and sleeping at his post, that I could not hold my cane off his back."
Seated, on one occasion, at dinner, in the house of one of his parishioners, along with some of his elders, he rose suddenly from the table, and, going out of the house, was seen by those whom he left behind, walking hurriedly towards a wood, not far from the house. There was a small lake in the wood, on the margin of which he found a woman, just about to cast herself into the water. She had come from the parish of Alness, and, distracted and despairing, was driven by the Tempter to suicide. Mr M'Phail arrived, just in time, to intercept her from her purpose, and, preaching Christ to her disconsolate soul as "able to save to the uttermost," this poor sinner was then and there disposed and enabled to "flee for refuge to the hope set before" her. Her after-life amply proved the genuineness of her conversion. But Satan will have his revenge. He suggested to Mr M'Phail that this woman was sent by him to Resolis, because the shepherds across the water were too wakeful to allow him an opportunity of accomplish ing his purpose in their parishes. When Mr Fraser heard of it, he said, "That poor sinner was sent to Resolis, because I was unfit for dealing with her case."
As a preacher, he was peculiarly edifying to the people of the Lord. He could deal with their cases more closely and more tenderly than almost any other minister in his day. He does not appear to have been so careful in the composition of his sermons as some others of the fathers in Ross-shire. He was careful to feel, rather than to arrange, the doctrine which he preached, but what his discourses wanted of order was well made up by their unction and freshness. Having to preach on a Sabbath in Petty, and after a large congregation had assembled to hear him, he was in the wood without sermon or text wrestling with the Lord. The hour for beginning the service had long passed before Mr M'Phail was seen approaching the tent; but of all the remarkable sermons he ever preached, the one he preached that day was perhaps the most refreshing to God's people, and the most fruitful in the conversion of sinners. Some of his own people were there, and wishing for their fellow-parishioners the benefit which they themselves had derived, and expecting a renewal of their former enjoyment, they requested their minister to preach the same sermon at Rssolis. He did so, but those who heard it before were this time greatly disappointed. Mentioning this to Mr M'Phail, he accounted for the difference by saying, "When in Petty, you were looking to the Lord, but in Resolis you were looking to me. There you got the manna fresh from Heaven; here you got it after it had moulded in my memory."
On his death-bed, his hope of Heaven was for a season sorely tried. Falling asleep in a dejected state of mind, he dreamt that he was waiting, lonely and despairing, outside the walls of the New Jerusalem. Seeing the gate closed, and none near to help him, and none in sight to cry to for help, he had just lain down to die, when he heard sounds as of a company approaching the city. Venturing to look up from the dust where he lay, he recognised Noah, Abraham, and all the patriarchs. As they drew near, the gate flew open, a glorious company from within came forth to meet them, and, in the midst of shouts of triumph, they entered. The gate again closes, and again he is left alone and hopeless. But soon he hears the noise of another company approaching. As they pass, he recognises Moses, Aaron, Samuel, David, and all the prophets, a glorious and a numerous band. Again the gate is thrown open, "an abundant entrance" given, and again he is left outside, and feels more desolate than ever. A third company is heard approaching, composed of the Apostles and all the earliest Christians. They enter the city amidst rejoicing like the rest, and he, with less hope than ever, is still outside the gate. A fourth company now appears. Luther and Knox are at the head of those who form it. They pass him by like those who went before, are admitted into the city, and leave him alone and despairing without. Quite close to him now comes a fifth company. He recognises in it seme of his friends and acquaintances, who had died in the Lord; but, though, their shining skirts touch him as they pass, he could not venture to arise and join them. Again he sees the gate open and close; and now, at last, he lays himself quite down to die. But he hears the footstep of a solitary pilgrim, coming exactly to the place where he lies. Looking up, he recognises Manasseh. Summoning all his strength, he takes hold of his skirt, as he moves slowly towards the city, and, creeping on behind him, he knows the gate has opened, by the light of the city's glory shining on his face; and just as he thought he heard the sound of the gate closing behind him, he suddenly awoke. The lesson of his dream was presented to him there after in the sweet words of Paul: "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief."
His tombstone in the churchyard of Cullicudden bears the following inscription: "Here lies the body of the holy man of God, and faithful minister of Jesus Christ, Mr Hector M'Phail, minister of the Gospel in this parish, who died 23d January 1779, aged 58 years."
Four years before the death of Mr M'Phail, Mr CHARLES CALDER was ordained minister of Ferintosh. The Calders were a blessed race. Mr John Calder was minister of Cawdor from 1704 to 1717. His gifts, his godliness, and his acceptance and success as a minister, were such, that throughout all the north he was known as "the great Mr Calder." His son, Mr James Calder, became minister of Arderseir in 1740, and about seven years thereafter, was translated to Croy, where he died in 1775. Both as a Christian and a minister, he was no less eminent than his father. He had three sons - John, who was minister of Rosskeen, where his brief ministry was greatly blessed; Hugh, who succeeded his father, a talented and a godly man, but so delicate that he very seldom was able to preach; and Charles, the celebrated minister of Ferintosh.
Naturally amiable, with a vigorous intellect, refined taste, and more than ordinary accomplishments, under the sanctifying influence of the truth, Mr Charles Calder became "a man among a thousand." Early taught of God, and trained and guided by the discipline and example of his father, he came to his work as a minister with all the maturity which only long experience could give to another. Careful in his preparations for the pulpit, and much given unto prayer, he was not often seen abroad among his people; the stern call of duty alone drew him from his study. As a preacher he was quite singular; and it was his want of any marked peculiarity that made him so. His sermons were written with great care, but a chaste simplicity was the characteristic of his style. He seldom used an illustration; but all others would fail, when he did not succeed, in being sufficiently clear. His words were chosen not to please, but to instruct; and well chosen indeed they were, for his statements were so bathed in light, the words were never noticed. They were always so transparent, that the idea they contained was like a naked flame. His manner was chastened and quiet, but earnest and solemn. All was subordinated by him to the great end of setting only Christ before the eyes of sinners. His great theme was the love of Jesus. His own soul kept lying at the feet of Jesus, he was wont to give forth, with all the freshness of a present experience, his utterances regarding the person, love, death, and salvation of the blessed Redeemer. There never was a more affecting preacher, when discoursing on his favourite theme. Often have his whole congregation been in tears, as in his own tender, solemn way, he commended Jesus as a Saviour to the lost; and when, with a tremulous voice, but with the authority of one who knew he was conveying a message from Jehovah, he warned the unbeliever of his danger, the most indifferent were compelled to tremble. It was a rare sight, to see that man of God, his meek face lighted with the radiance of his humble joy, and his eye suffused with with tears, as he poured out of the fulness of a contrite heart the praises of Christ crucified, while many of his hearers were expressing, by their weeping, the influence which his doctrine had upon their hearts. They were blessed Sabbaths these, in the Church of Ferintosh. Many a soul shall remember one of these days for ever, as "the time of love" when the Lord first espoused him to Himself, and when He cheered his heart as he was fainting on his journey towards Zion.
He was not ignorant of Satan s devices. He was getting too near to the mercy-seat to be allowed by the enemy to escape his revenge; and he had, besides, to bear the malice which was provoked by the in roads he was the means of making on his kingdom in the world. Often did he find it difficult to leave his study on a Sabbath morning, and many a sleepless Sabbath night did he spend, because of the short-comings of the Sabbath service. He had a partner of his temporal lot, who was also a partner of his spiritual joys and sorrows, and whose prudence was equal to her piety. Often to her wise interference it was due that he went out at all to public duty. Once she found him, in an agony of fear, lying on his study floor, at the hour for beginning the service in the church. "Oh, why was I ever a minister?" he cried, as she entered, "I should have been a tradesman rather." "My dear, the Lord knew that you had not strength for a tradesman's work," was his wife's wise reply, as she pointed to his delicately formed limbs; "but as He has given you a voice wherewith to speak the praise of Christ, go with it to the work which now awaits you." He rose and went to the pulpit; the Lord shone on his soul, and blessed his preaching, and there are memories in heaven, and will be for ever, of that Sabbath service in the church of Ferintosh.
Having preached, on the Monday of a communion season in Dingwall, a sermon, singular even among his own, so impressed were the souls of God's people by the doctrine, and so awed by the holy solemnity of the service, that none of them could venture to speak to him after it was over. His catechist was sitting beside the tent, and as Mr Calder was coming out of it, he placed his hand on the steps by which his minister was descending, but was so overawed by what he had heard, that he dared not to address him as he passed. It was not long, when Satan began to retaliate on the Lord's servant for that day's work. The Tempter insisted, that he had so grieved the hearts of God's people by that sermon, that none of them would speak to him, and that even his catechist, Louis Calder, was obliged, on that account, to turn his back upon him. Louis expected that Satan would not allow his minister to pass scaithless after such a service, and on the evening of the next day he went to the manse. He was told, on entering, that the minister was ill, and Mrs C. conducted him to her husband s bedroom. There he found his minister, in great distress, lying on his bed. Mr Calder told his state of mind, and how he had interpreted Louis conduct at the close of the service in Dingwall. The catechist then informed him of the true state of feeling in which he and all the people of the Lord, then present, were at that time; and the snare of the fowler was broken.
His last illness was a short one. At its commencement he said to a Christian friend, "Here I am, like a ship at sea, without rudder, sail, or compass. If the Lord has said it, I will come, as a vessel of mercy, to the haven of glory; but if not, I am lost for ever." Shortly before his death, he said, "I am content to lie here to the end of time, if the Lord would employ my suffering as the means of saving good to any one of my people." He entered into the joy of his Lord on the 1st of October 1812.
Of all the eminent ministers in the Highlands, none is more famous than Mr LACHLAN MACKENZIE of Lochcarron. Owing to his genius, his peculiar Christian experience, and his great acceptance as a preacher, he has retained a firmer hold of the memories of the people than any other besides. He was born in Kilmuir Wester in 1754. Receiving an excellent classical education in his youth, and having a predeliction for such studies, he attained to a considerable acquaintance with the dead languages, which he continued to retain, and even to extend, to the very evening of his life. He was only eight years of age, when he first felt the saving power of the truth, and he became distinguished at once for his devotion to prayer, which was his great peculiarity during all his subsequent life. A few years before he was licensed, he was appointed parish schoolmaster of Lochcarron. The majority of the Presbytery were not disposed to forward the views of a youth, who showed such marked symptoms of the religious enthusiasm which was regarded as a plague, in the last century, by the stipend-lifters of the Establishment. Men who thought, that to earn a stipend it was enough to read a borrowed sermon on Sabbath, and that after spending so unpleasant an hour in the church, they had a right to enjoy all the other hours of the week at their ease in the manse, were not likely to look with favour on the schoolmaster, who set up prayer-meetings, and who ventured to read the Bible, and to expound it to the people, at most uncanonical hours. They resolved, therefore, to withhold licence from Mr Lachlan. In point of scholarship and theology, he was ahead of all his judges, but merely because he could not be kept from praying, they were determined to keep him from preaching. They agreed, at last, to license him, on condition of his not being settled within their own bounds, a promise to that effect having been given by the patron. But his chief opponents in the Presbytery were removed soon after, and his settlement at Lochcarron took place in 1782, and there he continued to labour till his death.
His immediate predecessor was Mr DONALD MUNRO. "He was an agreeable man, and preached the gospel in its purity," is Mr Lachlan's account of him - a tribute not kept back by recollections of his unkind treatment of himself when he was pursuing his studies for the ministry. Unable to appreciate his schoolmaster, and regarding his eccentricity as a proof of his being below and not above the average of intellectual power, he had always dissuaded Mr Lachlan from aspiring to the ministry, and refused him all aid against his enemies in the Presbytery.
Mr Munro wag preceded by the famous Mr ÆNEAS SAGE - "a man of an undaunted spirit, who did not know what the fear of man was. He had, however, the fear of God, and great zeal for the good cause in its highest perfection. He was the determined enemy of vice, and a true friend of the gos pel." Such, according to Mr Lachlan, was the character of Mr Sage, the first minister who is known to have preached the gospel in purity and with success in Lochcarron. At the time of his induction, the state of the parish was very much the same as it was found by the Presbytery to be in 1649, when, after visiting it, they reported that "there were no elders in it, by reason of malignancy; swearing, drunkenness, cursing, Sabbath profanation, and uncleanness prevailed." As to the church, there was found in it "ane formal stool of repentance, but no pulpit nor desks." The stool, if the only, was truly the suitable, seat for all the people in Lochcarron in these days; but the more it was required, the less power there was to make it aught else than "ane formal" thing, as the solitary occupant of the church.
Matters continued in this state till the induction of Mr Sage, nearly eighty years after. He was just the man for the work of breaking up the fallow ground of a field so wild, and a rich blessing rested on his labours. On the night of his first arrival at Lochcarron, an attempt was made to burn the house in which he lodged, and for sometime after his induction, his life was in constant danger. But the esteem he could not win as a minister, he soon acquired for his great physical strength. The first man in Lochcarrron, in those days, was the champion at the athletic games. Conscious of his strength, and knowing that he would make himself respected by all, if he could only lay big Rory on his back, who was acknowledged to be the strongest man in the district, the minister joined the people, on the earliest opportunity, at their games. Challenging the whole field, he competed for the prize in putting the stone, tossing the caber, and wrestling, and won an easy victory. His fame was established at once. The minister was now the champion of the district, and none was more ready to defer to him, than he whom he had deprived of the laurel. Taking Rory aside to a confidental crack, he said to him, "Now, Rory, I am the minister, and you must be my elder, and we both must see to it that all the people attend church, observe the Sabbath, and conduct themselves properly." Rory fell in with the proposal at once. On Sabbath, when the people would gather to their games in the forenoon, the minister and his elder would join them, and each taking a couple by the hand, they would drag them to the church, lock them in, and then return to catch some more. This was repeated till none was left on the field. Then, stationing the elder with his cudgel at the door, the minister would mount the pulpit and conduct the service. One of his earliest sermons was blessed to the conversion of his assistant, and a truly valuable coadjutor he found in big Rory thereafter. Mr Lachlan thus describes the result of his ministry: - "Mr Sage made the people very orthodox." They "seem to have a strong attachment to religion." "There is a great appearance of religion in Lochcarron; and as the fire of God's Word is hereafter to try every man's work, there is cause to hope that some of it will bear the trial."
Such was the state of Lochcarron at the time of Mr Lachlan s induction. Taught to respect a godly minister, the people cordially welcomed Mr Lachlan as their pastor. His fame as a Christian was already great; they had experience of his gifts as a speaker; and he occupied, at once, the place of an approved ambassador of Christ in the regards of the people.
He was of a peculiarly sensitive temperament, rendering him susceptible of the deepest impressions. Were it not for his powerful intellect, he would have been the creature of impulse, driven by his feelings rather than guided by his judgment. It is seldom so much mind and heart are found in one man. The light of a heartless intellectualism, or the fire of an impulsive sentimentalism, are often the alternatives, in the case of those who have risen above the crowd. But in him the clear head and the warm heart were connected. Capable of forming a vivid conception of a subject, his imagination never failed to furnish him with metaphors by which aptly to illustrate it. He was no poet, though he often rhymed; but if he could not form those pleasing combinations of natural objects, which, by their novelty and beauty, attest the working of poetic genius, he had the power of tracing analogies between the things of intellect and the things of sense. This, to a preacher, is the more useful endowment, and the imagination is more safely employed in such an office, than when scattering the gems of poesy over the treasures of truth.
His Christian experience was singular. Early taught to know the Lord, one would have expected his course to have been unusually even. But the very reverse was the case; for few Christians ever experienced such marked changes of feeling, on the brink of despair under the power of temptation, and soon again in a state of rapturous enjoyment, shade and sunshine alternated in abrupt an rapid succession, during the whole of his life. Ardent and imaginative as he was, the fiery darts of the wicked one flashed the more vividly, and pierced the more deeply, into his soul, and the joy that came to him from heaven the more violently excited him. His prayerfulness was the leading feature of his Christianity. Much of his time was spent on his knees, and many a sleepless night has he passed, sometimes wrestling, as for his life, against the assaults of the tempter, and at other times, "rejoicing in hope of the glory of God." The nearness to the mercy-seat, to which he was sometimes admitted, was quite extraordinary. Proofs of this might be given, because of which we cannot wonder that he had the fame and the influence of a prophet, among the simple people of the north, but the record of which would cause most incredulous noddings of the wise heads of the south. Avoiding the extreme of a superstitious credulity, on the one hand, and of the formalist's scepticism, on the other, it is altogether safe to say, that Mr Lachlan enjoyed peculiarly familiar intercourse with God, and received such distinct intimations of His mind, in reference to the cases which he carried to the mercy-seat, as but very few of God's children have obtained.
His preaching was always remarkable. His great originality of thought and manner, his apt and striking illustrations, his clear and emphatic utterance, the unction and authority with which he spake, his close dealing with the conscience, his dexterous and tender handling of the cases of the tempted, his powerful appeals, his solemn earnestness, and his frequent out bursts of impassioned feeling, could not fail to win for him a measure of acceptance, as they gave him a measure of power, beyond that of any other of his brethren. His was preaching to which all could listen with interest. His striking illustrations, often homely, though always apt, would arrest the attention of the most ignorant and careless. There was an intellectual treat in his sermons for such as could appreciate the efforts of genius. The scoffer was arrested and awed by the authority with which he spoke, and every hearer seeking the bread of life hung upon his lips. A congregation was always eager to hear when Mr Lachlan was to preach. A large crowd once gathered in Killearnan to hear him. So many had assembled that the church could not contain them, and the service was conducted in the open air. When the text was announced, a rude fellow, sitting in the out skirts of the congregation, called out in the excitement of his eagerness, "Speak out; we cannot hear." Mr Lachlan, not disconcerted in the least, raised his voice and said, "My text is, Ye have need of patience," which the man no sooner heard, than he was fain to hold his tongue and hide his face with shame.
The minuteness with which he described the feelings and habits of his hearers, and the striking confirmation of his doctrine, often given by the Lord in His providence, gave him an extraordinary influence over his people. Preaching, on one occasion, against the sin of lying, he counselled his people to refrain, in all circumstances, from prevarication and false hood, assuring them that they would find it their best policy for time, as well as their safest course for eternity. One of his hearers, conscious of having often told a lie, and finding it impossible to believe, that it could always be wise to tell the truth, went to speak to the minister on the subject. He was a smuggler, and while conversing with Mr Lachlan, he said, "Surely, if the exciseman should ask me where I hid my whisky, it would not be wrong that I should lead him off the scent." His minister would not allow that this was a case to which the rule he laid down was not applicable, and advised him, even in in such circumstances, to tell the simple truth. The smuggler was soon after put to the test. While working behind his house by the wayside, on the following week, the exciseman came up to him and said, "Is there any whisky about your house today?" Remembering his minister's advice, the smuggler at once said, though not without misgivings as to the result, "Yes, there are three casks of whisky buried in a hole under my bed, and if you will search for them there you will find them." "You rascal," the exciseman said, "if they were there, you would be the last to tell me;" and at once walked away. As soon as he was out of hearing, and the smuggler could breathe freely again, he ex claimed, "Oh, Mr Lachlan, Mr Lachlan, you were right as usual!"
On another occasion, he was bearing testimony against dishonest dealing, assuring his hearers that, sooner or later, the Lord would punish all who held the balances of deceit. As an example of how the Lord sometimes, even in this life, gives proof of His marking the sin of dishonesty, he repeated an anecdote, which was current at the time. A woman, who had been engaged in selling milk, with which she always mingled a third of water, and who had made some money by her traffic, was going with her gains to America. During the voyage she kept her treasure in a bag which was always under her pillow. There was a monkey on board the ship, that was allowed to go at large, and that in course of its wanderings came to the milk woman's hammock, in rummaging which it found the bag of gold. Carrying it off, the monkey mounted the rigging, and, seating itself aloft on a spar, opened the bag and began to pick out the coins. The first it threw out into the sea, and the second and third it dropped on the deck, and so on, till a third of all the contents of the bag had sunk in the ocean, the owner of the bag being allowed to gather off the deck just what she had fairly earned by her milk. One of Mr Lachlans' hearers remembered, while listening to this anecdote, that he had in his trunk at home, a bundle of bank notes, which he had got by the sale of diluted whisky. Feeling very uneasy, he hurried to his house after the sermon was over. It was dark before he arrived, and, kindling a pine torch, he hastened to the place where he kept his money, afraid that it had be taken away. Holding the torch with one hand, while he turned over the notes with the other, a flaming ember fell right down into the midst of the treasure, and before the man, bewildered as he was, could rescue them, as many of the notes were consumed as exactly represented the extent to which he had diluted the whisky.
Never did a sudden death occur in the parish, during his ministry, without some intimation of it being given from the pulpit on the previous Sabbath; and sometimes warnings would be so strikingly verified, that one cannot wonder he was regarded as a prophet by his people. Such instances of the minute guidance of the Lord could not fail to make a deep impression on a simple-minded people, and should not fail to make some impression on any people.
The most famous sermon he ever preached was on "the Babe in Bethlehem." It made a very deep impression on the minds of such of the Lord's people as were privileged to hear it; and the memories of that sermon were always recalled with peculiar vividness and delight. The preacher having proposed to go to seek for Jesus, an inquirer was supposed to offer to attend him, and the two were represented as setting out together on the search. They had not gone far, when, the inquirer s eye resting on a fine house not far away, he said, "Surely this is the place where we will find him." "Come and let us see," was the guide's reply. They go to the fine mansion, and peeping in through the window, they see a company seated round a gaming-table. "O, come away, come away ; Jesus cannot be here," the inquirer cries. "I knew that," his guide replied, "but while we are on the way to some other place, let me tell you what will be the fate of the company on which we were looking." He then detailed the future of the family in the mansion, and the programme he gave was exactly carried out, in the after-history of a family in his parish. "Oh, perhaps he is there," says the inquirer, pointing to another house." Come and let us see," was again the guide's reply. They reached the house, but they had only just stood, when the hoarse laugh of the drunkard sounded in their ears. Again the inquirer is satisfied that they must seek elsewhere for Jesus; and again, with wonderful minuteness, the minister describes the future career of another household in his parish. After repeated trials, made at his own suggestion, the inquirer begins to despair of finding Jesus at all. He leaves himself now entirely in the hands of his guide, who brings him to the back court of the inn, and pointing to the door of the stable, says, "It is there Jesus will be found." "There!" cries the inquirer, "behind that mass of filth," as he pointed to the dung-heap at the door of the stable. Applying this to his remembrance of past sins, and his fear that one so guilty as he could never find Jesus, the guide reasoned with the inquirer, till his first difficulty was removed. He then brings him to the threshold, but the filth within now arrests him. "Oh, surely," he cries, "he cannot be in such a place as this." Applying this to his sense of indwelling corruption, his guide again reasons with the inquirer, till his second difficulty is removed. But seeing beasts within, he is afraid to cross over to the manger. This suggests the presence and wiles of the tempter, and the inquirer's fears, arising from temptation, are met and removed. At last the manger is reached, and there, in swaddling clothes, they find the infant Jesus. In the renewed will of the inquirer himself, seeking Christ as revealed and offered in the gospel, and as he fain would embrace Him in the promise, if he dared, Jesus at last is found, notwithstanding all past guilt, abounding corruption, and harassing temptations.
Mr Lachlan was very careful in his preparation for the pulpit, though it was only when his mental vigour was declining that he began to write his discourses. The few specimens of these which have been given to the public, furnish no adequate idea of his preaching. His illustrations were never written, and the published skeletons are the productions of his latter years, when his power was on the wane.
His last service in public was an address to communicants at the table of the Lord. He was then unable to stand without support. The minister of Killearnan, seating himself at the head of the table, with Mr Lachlan standing in front of him, held him up with his strong arms from behind. Mustering all his strength, he poured out with his broken voice, from a broken heart, the praises of redeeming love.
A stroke of paralysis laid him prostrate during the last year of his life. Mind and body alike succumbed to the blow, and before the year had closed, the friends who loved him best were willing that he should leave them to enter on the rest for which his soul was pining. It required such a visitation as this to reconcile them to his death. He had survived, his usefulness to the Church on earth, and there was now no inducement to wish him longer "absent from the Lord."
The following appropriate inscription, composed by Dr Ross of Lochbroom, is engraved on his humble tombstone: - "Here are deposited the mortal remains of the Rev. Lachlan Mackenzie, late minister of Lochcarron, who died April 20th, 1819, in the 37th year of his ministry. A man, whose simplicity of manners presented a picture of apostolic times; whose heavenliness of mind still spurned the vain objects of time and sense; whose vivid imagination shed a bright lustre on every subject which he handled; and whose holy unction in all his ministrations endeared him to the people of God, and embalmed his memory in their hearts. His praise is in the churches. His parish mourns."
Mr MACADAM'S first charge was the Gaelic congregation of Cromarty. His ministry there was greatly blessed - more so, perhaps, than it ever was in the parish of Nigg, to which he was translated, and in which he laboured till his death. The intrusion of his predecessor had driven many of the people of Nigg out of the establishment, and a Congregation was formed, and a church built, in the parish, in connexion with the Secession. The minister of that charge, in Mr Macadam's day, was Mr Buchanan, a godly man, who was greatly beloved and respected by his people. For some time, Mr Macadam and he kept very much aloof from each other, but a circumstance occurred which was the occasion of bringing them, during their latter years, more closely together. Mr Macadam, having been sent for, to visit one of his hearers who was dying, went to the house, but on reaching the door, was arrested by a passage of Scripture which was applied with peculiar power to his heart, in the face of which not daring to enter, he turned away and went home. The relatives of the dying man were greatly offended, and immediately sent for Mr Buchanan; but his conduct was an exact repetition of that of the parish minister. Mr Macadam, hearing this, visited Mr Buchanan, and was surprised to find that the very same passage which had arrested himself was suggested to him also, and had made the self-same impression on his mind. This helped them to discover that they were more at one than their relative positions seemed to indicate. Mr Macadam thereafter compared himself and Mr Buchanan to two men engaged in thatching the same house, though on opposite sides. The thatchers, as their work proceeded, would approach each other, till, when their work was finished, they met together at the top. The ministers thus recognised each other as fellow-labourers about the house of the Lord, though they seemed to be opposed, expecting to meet together, and be for ever with the Lord, when their work on earth was done.
As a preacher, Mr Macadam was peculiarly acceptable to the people of God. To his solemn and weighty thoughts he gave expression in terse vigorous words, fitly uttered with a deep sonorous voice. His sermons were remarkably compact and powerful, containing a luminous statement of doctrine, aptly illustrated and skilfully applied.
A note of his preaching, often quoted by Dr Macdonald, deserves to be remembered: "Why are there so many bankrupt professors of religion in our day? It is because they start without a capital."
During the latter years of his life, he devoted much time to the study of unfulfilled prophecy, and his case furnishes a striking proof of how dangerous that study is. Few men possessed a more solid judgment than he, and yet his views of unfulfilled prophecy were so extravagant and confused that all his judiciousness, so remarkable in other departments, seemed to have forsaken him when he entered upon this. Many cruder and more confused charts of the future may have been drawn since his day, but these came generally from hands that were never known to be under the guidance of a sober judgment. The study of prophecy has now become the fashionable religious diversion, and it is no wonder that those should be drawn aside after it, who were never strongly attached to the fundamental doctrines of the gospel, and have never clearly seen, firmly held, and deeply felt them. But even if the godly and judicious Macadam wandered into tangled mazes there, sure indeed, of guidance from on high, ought any one to be, who feels disposed to follow him into the field of prophecy.
His most intimate friend, of all his brethren in the Presbytery, was Mr KENNEDY of Logie. There was ever between them both the closest Christian fellowship, while together on the earth, and often have they enjoyed a sweet foretaste of the converse with each other, and of the communion with the Lord, which now fill their hearts with gladness in the "Father's house." Mr Macadam died on the eighth day of June 1817, in the sixty-ninth year of his age.
Dr ANGUS MACKINTOSH was minister of a Gaelic chapel in Glasgow before his removal to Tain. His preaching in Glasgow drew around him, as his stated hearers, the pious Highlanders in the city, and many of the Lord's people from the surrounding country, and from neighbouring towns, used occasionally to repair to his church. Blessed to many were his labours then. In 1797 he was translated to Tain, and his ministry there, which at once won the confidence and attachment of the godly, and was commended to the consciences of all, continued to the end to maintain its acceptance and its power.
His personal appearance was remarkable. Tall and of a massive figure, a dark complexion, a face full of expression, and a bearing peculiarly solemn and dignified, he attracted at once the eye of a stranger, and never failed to command his respect. Those who knew him well could tell what kind of subject he had been studying, from the expression of his countenance as he entered the pulpit. The text had been deeply and powerfully affecting his heart, and his expressive face gave out the feeling which it had produced. There was a gloom of awe on his countenance, as if the very shadow of Sinai were darkening it, when his heart was charged with a message of terror; and the softened cast of his features, and the gleam of light in his eye, at other times, encouraged the broken hearted to expect a message of encouragement and comfort.
To a stranger he seemed to wear an air of sternness. His love did not lie on the surface, like that of many, whose indiscriminate kindliness is seen by every eye, while they have no hidden treasures of affection for any. His heart once reached, it was found fraught with love; but it was too precious and too sanctified to be given in intimate fellowship to any but to those whom he could embrace as brethren in Christ. Those who loved him at all, loved him as they loved no other. In the society of kindred spirits, there was often a radiant cheerfulness in his manner, that made his conversation peculiarly attractive. But he was the man of God, wherever he was, ever keeping an unflinching front to sin. His holy life, and the authority of his doctrine, and his solemn and dignified bearing, invested him with a power, before which iniquity hid its face, and evil-doers could not be bold to sin. How precious to a country is the influence of such a life and of such a ministry as his! Alas ! how rare is such a blessing now. May the Lord have mercy on the people who have sinned it away!
His impressions of divine things were peculiarly solemn, his convictions of sin had been unusually deep, and his views of the way of salvation uncom monly clear and decided. "Knowing the terror of the Lord," as few besides have known it, overpoweringly urgent was his way of persuading the sinner to flee from "the wrath to come." He was indeed "a son of thunder," in preaching the law to the Christless, and seared must have been the conscience of the man who could listen to him without fear; but, at the same time, no preacher could be more careful not to hurt when the Lord was healing. At the close of one of his solemn and searching discourses, under which none seemed to be spared, and all hopes seemed to be levelled in the dust, carefully would he search out the cases of the "poor in spirit," and speak com fort to "the broken in heart." In unravelling the mystery of iniquity, and in exposing all counterfeits of godliness, he was peculiarly solemn and skilful; and when unfolding and applying the doctrines of grace, there was an unction, a clearness, and a power in his preaching, to which very few have at tained.
Looking back, from his death-bed, on his experience as a preacher, he said, "I have had days of darkness in the pulpit; but I have felt, at other times, while preaching Christ to sinners, as if I were already in Heaven."
Walking in his garden, shortly before his death, leaning on the arm of his son, he stopped at a certain spot, each time he made a circuit on the walk around it. Standing, for the third or fourth time, in the same place, he pointed to a withered tree hard by. "There am I, Charles," he said, and then burst into tears. How touching a proof of his deep self-abasement before God! How ready was this faithful servant of the Lord, to count himself unprofitable, after all he had done, and how willing to acknowledge, that if he ever entered into the joy of the Lord, it must be as "the chief of sinners" saved by grace! He died in October 1831, in the sixty-eighth year of his age, and in the thirty-ninth of his ministry.
Mr WILLIAM FORBES of Tarbat, was Dr. Mackintosh's most intimate friend. They had been companions, as pupils in the Fortrose Academy, and as students in King's College, Aberdeen; and the warm attachment then formed, knew no interruption during all their subsequent intercourse.
If kindliness of manner is required to make a man amiable, Mr Forbes was far from being so. There was a rough crust on the outside of him, but there was much sterling love beneath it, though too deep for all to find it. With a horror of affectation, a rigid exactness of habits, a contempt of petty conventionalities and an eruptive temper, there was not much about him, to attract the attention of those who would not love him for his godliness. Sometimes he would unbend, when softened by the genial intercourse of Christian friends, and, on such occasions, he infused so much genuine humour into his conversation, that one wondered where he usually hid the stores, on which he then drew so largely. A man of sterling worth he was, who could afford to want the smooth exterior, that other men require to make them tolerable. Always holding his best in reserve, one could never duly value him who did not know him thoroughly. He bore to be examined, and the longer and the closer one's intercourse with him was, the more he commanded his affection and respect. Unscared by the fear of man, he was an unsparing reprover of sin wherever it appeared. Not accessible to the impressions by which others might be swayed, from following the strict requirements of conscience, he kept his flock invariably under the strictest discipline. But no man was less disposed to lord it over the consciences of the people, while careful to keep his own "void of offence," in his dealings with them all. The result of this stern regime was an order and propriety, in the demeanour of his congregation, in the house of God, such as could not else where he found.
His clear and vigorous intellect, with a cultivated taste, enabled him to clothe in most expressive language the exactest thinking. He was scrupulously careful in his preparation for the pulpit. His manuscripts were often quite as ready for the press as for the pulpit, though they never found their way to either. As a lecturer there have been few to excel him; and at the head of a communion table, where he opened up, as on no other occasion, the rich treasures of his experience, his addresses were peculiarly refreshing to the people of the Lord. Solemn and quiet in his manner, and most emphatic in his utterance, he spoke with such authority and unction as never failed to command the attention of his hearers. Precious to God's people have his sermons often been, and, by his hand has the Lord sent the arrow of conviction to not a few proud hearts. He died in May, 1838. His ministry in Tarbat began in the first year of the century.
Of the Ross-shire fathers, he who went last to his rest, was, in some respects, the first. The extent of his labours, and his great popularity and success, won for him the name of "the apostle of the north." More in the eye of the public, the name of Dr. MACDONALD is familiar to many, to whom that of some of the others is utterly unknown. His was mainly the work of an evangelist; and his great physical energy, his masculine intellect, his retentive memory, his buoyancy of spirits, his pleasant manner, the fervour of his love, and the character of his Christian experience, marked him out as an instrument of the Lord s own fashioning for the work in which he was engaged. A more extended memoir of his life and labours being in course of preparation, it is unnecessary to anticipate here the record that may yet be given.
THE "FATHERS, WHERE ARE THEY?" "WOE IS ME! FOR I AM AS WHEN THEY HAVE GATHERED THE SUMMER FRUITS, AS THE GRAPE GLEANINGS OF THE VINTAGE; THERE IS NO CLUSTER TO EAT; MY SOUL DESIRED THE FIRST-RIPE FRUIT."