John Kennedy of Dingwall

Rev. John Kennedy, D.D., of Dingwall

This website is dedicated to the works of Rev. John Kennedy, D.D., who was minister of the Free Church of Scotland in Dingwall (in the Scottish Highlands) from 1843 until his death in 1884.

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The Days of the Fathers in Ross-shire

by Rev. John Kennedy, D.D., of Dingwall

CHAPTER IV.
THE RELIGION OF ROSS-SHIRE.

Fruits of the Gospel in the days of the Fathers — A Ross-shire Congregation — A Ross-shire Sabbath — A Ross-shire Communion Season — Radical Peculiarity of the Religion of Ross-shire — Objections considered — Gloominess — Exclusiveness — Closetism — Influence of "the Men" — Paucity of Communicants.

THE ministry, of which a description was attempted, could not fail to leave a deep impression, of its own peculiar character, on the views, feelings, and habits of the people. The power of the pulpit was paramount in Ross-shire, and the people became, to a great extent, plastic to its influence. The preachers could mould the opinions and habits of their hearers, without any counteracting influences, besides such as invariably operate, to distort the impression which they desired to produce. In such circumstances, these men of God failed not to realise their own ideal, to a great extent, in the effects of their ministry. But the attained result was of the Lord; and the fabric, reared by these "wise master builders," bears the traces of their skill, no further than it proves, that they were "labourers together with God." It was not a monument to themselves, these devoted men were building, but a house for God; and in its "form and fashion," we have abundant proof that, in raising it, they kept their eye on the "pattern" given them by the Lord.

And what was the result of their ministry? In order to ascertain this, we look back on one of the congregations of Ross-shire in its best days.

A gifted man of God is the minister. A goodly number of his hearers have been truly converted unto God, by whom he is loved, encouraged, and aided. By the unconverted the authority of his office is respected, although their feeling towards their pastor may have in it as much of fear as of love. A catechist, a godly, wise, and gifted man, is employed in teaching the people from house to house. The session is formed of elders, each one of whom is a man of prayer, and of a well-established reputation for godliness; and all of whom command the respect and submission of the people. Such was a Ross-shire Congregation in the good days of the Fathers.

On Sabbath they all meet in the house of God. The Lord himself is in the midst of them; the word is rightly divided; hungry souls are fed with "the finest of the wheat;" some of "the whole" are wounded; and some of the wounded ones are healed. The public service over, the people return to their homes; and by the way, they form into companies around some of the Lord's people, who are speaking of the sermon, and bring again, before themselves and others, the precious lessons which it furnished. In the evening district meetings are held, each presided over by an elder, or by some man of repute for godliness. After prayer and praise, and the reading of a portion of Scripture, a certain number of the questions of the Shorter Catechism are asked and answered, and notes of the sermons, heard during the day, are repeated. Time is allowed for family duties, and in many a household, the incense of prayer and praise ascends from the family altar to God. Such was an ordinary Ross-shire Sabbath in the good days of the Fathers.

Fortnightly, on Monday, at noon, there is alternately a prayer and a fellowship meeting, after which a meeting of session is generally held. On Tuesday and Wednesday, during winter and spring, the minister "holds diets of catechising." The residents in a certain district are gathered into one place — the church, a school, or a barn — and after praise, prayer, and an exposition of one of the questions of the Shorter Catechism in course, each person, from the district for the day, is minutely and searchingly examined. All attend, and all are catechised. Each individual conscience is thus reached by the truth, the exact amount of knowledge possessed by each of his hearers, as well as his state of feeling, ascertained by the minister, a clear knowledge of the fundamental doctrines of the gospel communicated, and valuable materials gathered for the work of the pulpit. During the remaining days of the week, the minister's work is in secret, except when a call to visit comes to him, in which he hears the voice of his Master. On four evenings of the week, the catechist is employed in his peculiar work. He goes over the several districts of the parish, as the pastor's pioneer, and his diets of catechising are conducted almost quite like those of the minister. All the people attend to be examined by him, and often have his instructions been signally blessed. On a set evening of each week, prayer-meetings are conducted by the elders in the several districts; and such men found, in those days, congenial employment in frequent converse with inquirers. Such was the ordinary weekly work in one of the Ross-shire congregations in the good days of the Fathers.

A communion season is approaching. It has been timeously announced, that it may be known "far and wide," and that the praying people may be bearing it on their spirits before the throne of grace. The minister preaches a suitable course of sermons on several preceding Sabbaths. The Lord's people are stirred up to seek a special manifestation of His power and glory. A few, who propose to seek admission to the Lord's table, are deeply exercised about the solemn step they contemplate, and faithfully and tenderly are they dealt with by both minister and elders. As the appointed time draws nigh, special meetings for prayer are held, and, with holy solicitude, all the preparatory arrangements are made. The Fast-day is come. Eminent ministers have arrived to take part in the solemn services. Many of the Lord's people are gathering. From as many as forty parishes they come; but lodgings they will easily procure, as the parish people are striving for the pleasure of entertaining them. Suitable discourses are preached in Gaelic, on the open field, and to a small English congregation, in the church, and in the evening, prayer meetings are held in the various districts of the parish. On Friday, the day of self-examination, the only public service is in the open air. A large crowd is gathered. "In the tent" there are several godly ministers. The service is that of a fellowship meeting, such as has already been described, but now with special reference to the solemn duties of a communion Sabbath. There are two questions proposed successively to secure variety. Strangers only are called to speak, and even of these only "the flower," for there are so many. Not fewer than thirty will have spoken before the service is over. Blessed indeed to many souls have these "Friday meetings" been. The services on Saturday, the day of preparation, are conducted as on Thursday, but, owing to the gathering influx of strangers, the congregation outside is greatly larger than on the Fast-day. At the close of the service, tokens are distributed. Prayer meetings are held throughout the parish in the evening; and while the ministers are preparing for the solemn work of the Sabbath, many are the petitions that ascend in their behalf, to Him who hath "the treasure" to dispense, and of whom is "the excellency of the power." In many instances, these prayer meetings have been protracted all night. So sensible were the people of the presence of the Lord, that they could not forsake the place where they enjoyed it; and they found "the joy of the Lord" a sweet substitute for sleep. On Sabbath, the day of Communion, an immense crowd is gathered before the tent. As many as eight thousand are there. The "Beauty of the Lord," is on the assembly of His people; and before the service is over, many a soul has had reason to say, "it is good to be here." On Monday, the day of thanks-giving, a crowd almost as large as that on Sabbath is assembled and often has "the last" been found to be the "great day of the feast." The closing service of the communion season is now over, and then comes the solemn parting! How affecting do the Lord's servants and people feel the scene before them to be, as that multitude disperses, never to meet all together again, till the vast congregation of "the last day" has assembled! What touching farewells are now exchanged between the Christians who enjoyed with each other, and together with the Lord, such sweet communion since they met a few days before! There are few tearless eyes, but the weeping is expressive of gratitude as surely as of sorrow. Such was a communion season in the good days of the Fathers in Ross-shire.

All this was true of Ross-shire in its best days; but only then, and even then only in those parishes that enjoyed a spiritual ministry. At the same time, the influence of the gospel spread over the community. It reached the parishes in which there was no evangelical ministry, not only in individual cases of conversion, but so as to win the esteem of the whole body of the people. This was owing to the commanding position, their godliness and their gifts acquired for the pious ministers of those days, and to the unblemished lives of the Christians, who were edified by their preaching. Both ministers and private Christians in those days, were such that "the people magnified them."

There are not awanting, some who suspect the healthfulness of the religious spirit, which was thus so extensively excited. As there are certain peculiarities which distinguish it from the type assumed by the religious feeling in the lowlands, the Southrons have been anxious to make out, that the difference is owing to some defect or excess, that may be charged against the north. The Ross-shire preaching, they say, was too experimental, and in the religion of those who were trained under it, there was, in consequence, a faulty excess of subjectiveness. To the radical peculiarity, thus indicated, whether it be accounted a defect or an advantage, may be traced all the develop ments of the religious spirit in the Highlands, that form its distinctive character, as compared with the Christianity of the Lowlands.

Those who think the comparison unfavourable to the pious Highlander, regard him as prone to attach undue importance to mere "frames and feelings," having never learned to distinguish between the foundation and the building — the work of Christ for him, and the work of the Spirit within him. He is suspected of having a fictitious standard of experience, which, like a Procrustes' bed, he uses as a means of torture to himself, and as an unrelenting test of the Christianity of others. A Highland Christian is, therefore, in their esteem, a gloomy bigot, as compared with the more cheerful and liberal Christians of the south. To the same source, they would trace the want of that activity, which distinguishes Christians elsewhere. The Christian Highlander, they say, is employed in determining whether he is a true servant of Christ or not, when he should be proving that he is so, by being "up and doing." The same amount of religious principle, because of this subjective tendency, is thought to throw off a less amount of religious principle, because of this subjective tendency, is thought to throw off a less amount of work, than otherwise it would. It is to the same source, the peculiar order and position of "the men" is ultimately traced. It is an excessive self-suspiciousness, say they, of the south, that has originated the fellowship meeting, and there "the men" acquired their position and influence. The same peculiarity finds another development in the paucity of communicants in the Highlands. It is affirmed, that there they frighten themselves by an exaggerated standard of fitness, and are guided by their feelings rather than by the written word. Thus all the peculiarities of the type of religion prevalent in the Highlands, are traced to one source and would be designated by those who are unfriendly, the gloominess, the bigotry and the closetism of Highland Christians, the undue influence of "the men," and the extreme paucity of communicants.

1. The gloominess of Highland Christians is unfairly taken for granted, and on the ground of the assumption, some of their Lowland brethren have been forward to denounce them. All that there is of truth in this charge is, that they were free from frivolity. They were grave, but not gloomy. They had not the light cheerfulness of unbroken hearts. They did not, like others, take it for granted that they were "the Lord's," they could not, like others, speak peace to themselves; but, unlike many others, they were dependent on the Lord for their hope and their joy. If some of those who denounce their gloominess, were as willing as they were to dispense with all joy, not the "fruit of the Spirit," they would regard with less complacency their own state of feeling; and if they had more true godliness, and some common sense, they would refrain from casting aspersions on the memories of these men of God. As they are, they cannot sympathize with the broken hearted who join trembling with their mirth. Always on the surface, alike of their hearts and their Bibles, they may feel that they are masters of their happiness; but it ill becomes them to cast their shafts at those to whose depths of distress, under a sense of corruption, He only can bring peace who "searcheth the deep things of God."

It cannot be denied that the pious Highlander was wont to look within. To do so cannot always be a mistake. If the Christian looks within for the warrant of his faith, he of course greatly errs, he looks to his own state of feeling as his rule of duty, instead of being always guided by the word of command from his Master, again he greatly errs. But would it not be an error greater still, not to look within at all? Is there no prayerful watchfulness over his heart which it is his duty to practise? Ought he not to examine himself, habitually, and closely, in order to ascertain the state and progress of his soul? Must he not keep an eye on his spirit, while engaged in his work, lest his service should be found by the Lord to be a graceless formality? While the Christian is on earth, there will be flesh as well as spirit in him; and in the flesh a love of ease causing a constant tendency in his soul to subside into a state of stagnancy. He who resists not this tendency, may present a smooth surface of hopefulness, which, though but a covering over deadness and decay, may seem in favourable contrast to the disquietude of those, who are more deeply stirred by a sense of corruption; more aware of their own deceitfulness, more moved by the solemn realities of eternity, and therefore less forward to declare their hope. But is the stillness of the former safer or more healthful than the disquiet of the latter? Will there not be more of genuine faith mingled with the groanings of the one, than is expressed in the easy assur ance of the other?

The Highland Christian cannot account for the ease with which a Lowlander, of whose piety he is persuaded, can adopt the language of assurance in his addresses to God. It is such a habit that he thinks the confidence with which his brother speaks, cannot always be in his heart; and if it is not there, he can not, he thinks, be right in using words which express it. And when he speaks with assurance, in the name of a mixed multitude, in public prayer, he cannot conceive how he can be speaking honestly. He could not speak thus dishonestly himself; and this is just the difference between the two. And is there not good reason for affirming, that there is as great a tendency to an arid objectiveness on the one side, as to a morbid subjectiveness on the other, to an un licensed familiarity on the one side, as to a slavish distrust on the other?

The Christians, in the Highlands, had been taught to distinguish between doubting the safety of their state, and doubting the truth of the Word. They were accustomed to hear, that one may be trusting in Christ, while continuing to feel that he is a sinner, and without any evidence at all of his yet being a saint. It was not the same kind of evidence they required to satisfy them as to the trustworthiness of Christ, as they needed to assure them of being partakers of His grace. They had learned to be content with the Word as the evidence of the former, but they sought in their "life and conversation" for the evidence of the latter. They could quite understand why Christ, who so often reproved His disciples for their unbelief, should yet excite them to self-jealousy, when He said, "one of you is a devil," and "one of you shall betray me;" and why Peter, to whom a special message of comfort had previously been sent, should thrice be asked, "Lovest thou me?" If some others understood this as well, the case of the High land Christian would not be such a puzzle to them, as it seems to be.

There are some, who, once obtaining somehow a hope of safety, banish all fears as to their interest in Christ from their hearts. A hope of being safe is all they desire, and having this, they seek not for evidence of being holy. There are some Christians, too, who are strangers to the anxieties of others of their brethren, just because they are less impressed by the reality of eternal things, and less acquainted with the deceitfulness, as well as less pained by the corruption, of their hearts. These would have no sympathy with the godly Highlander, who shrinks from expressing an assurance of his interest in Christ. They would attribute his fears to mistaken views, and to an un healthy state of feeling. They cannot conceive how he can be at all trusting in Christ, while at the same time not assured of his interest in Him. They seem to think, that the individual's interest in Christ, as surely as his right to appropriate Him, is matter of direct revelation. They forget that the persuasion, I may trust in Christ, is one thing, the consciousness, that I am trusting in Him, another thing, and the assurance that I have trusted in Him, yet another still. One may surely have the first without the second, and one may have the first and second with out the third. The believer may be trusting in Christ, and yet not assured that he is. He may be conscious of an exercise of trust, and yet be suspecting the genuineness of his faith. This suspicion is not to be rudely put down, as if it were the working of unbelief, or the fruit of temptation. It may prove to be a healthful feeling; profitable, as it moves one to examine the fruits of his faith; and hurtful only when it degenerates into a slavish fear, under the power of which the soul departs from the Lord.

It would indeed be false to affirm, that there were no extreme developments of the Highland peculiarity, in the case, both of individuals and communities, in the north, but it would be quite as false to affirm, that these were the results of the kind of preaching, for which the eminent ministers of Ross-shire were distinguished. Never, since the Apostles day, was the foundation more wisely laid, than by these preachers of the Gospel, and by none was its own place more carefully reserved for the written word of God. But at the same time, they were careful to distinguish between "the wood, hay, and stubble," and the "gold and precious stones" of the superstructure, and anxious to keep Christians dependent on grace, and alive to the importance of things unseen and eternal. A Christian, moulded after the fashion of their teaching, would be a man who, after a thorough work of conviction, found himself hopeless in "the horrible pit," and helpeless in "the miry clay," and quite at the disposal of the Sovereign who "will have mercy on whom He will;" who was raised by the quickening Spirit, and established on the "Rock of Ages," and was thenceforth learning, more and more, to seek his righteousness and his strength in Christ; who, with clear views of the doctrines of the gospel, combines an earnest desire to feel more of its power; who is kept sensible of heart-plagues, and is not allowed to be ignorant of Satan's devices; who is anxious, rather to be spiritual, than to be merely busy in his generation-work; who, as he cannot take his own Christianity for granted, is not easily satisfied with the profession of others; but who, while severe in his judgment of himself, and afraid to spoil an inquirer by premature comforts, is all warmth and tenderness of heart, to all, in whom there is seen "some good thing toward the Lord." There were many Highlands among the Christians, of whom aught of this, and there were some Christians among the Highlanders, of whom all of this could not be affirmed; but such was the genuine Highland Christian, as reared under the ministry of the Ross-shire fathers.

2. There have been exhibitions, in the north, of a spirit of proud exclusiveness, but the staple Christianity of Ross-shire was never smitten by it. It is not a peculiarity of any one country, that its Christians find it more difficult to recognise true godliness, in any other development, than in that of the type to which they have been accustomed. This has often made a pious Highlander cautious, in meeting the advances of a Christian from the south, who was too prone to regard his carefulness as the sternness of bigotry. This caution, and the habit of keeping his eye on the Bible standard of godliness, may have given an air of exclusiveness to his bearing toward others; but he never was one-half so severe upon them, as he was always accustomed to be upon himself. He had learned, in travelling over his native hills, when about to leave the beaten tract, to plant his foot firmly before him, and to refrain from advancing, till he had examined the ground over which he was to pass. He had too often fallen into quagmires, not to be cautious, when treading where they abound. But he had known, too, so much of his own deceitfulness, and so often found a fair profession to be a false one, that he also learned to be cautious, in his advances towards them who are called by the name of the Lord.

3. Under the vague charge, to which the name of Closetism has been given — just because it was never distinctly designated before, and because it can only be appropriately, when vaguely named — there are hid insinuations of licentiousness and indolence. It is suspected by some that the religion of the Highlands is something which its possessors never bring out of their closets, but to pit it against the religion of others. There never was a fouler calumny than this. Nowhere could Christians be found more intolerant of antinomianisrn, in themselves or in others, than the godly Highlanders; more careful to order their house holds in the fear of the Lord; more exact in their dealings in the market-place, and more circumspect in their whole life and conversation.

It is true, they may not have had the activity of those who delight in the bustle of mere surface work in public, but they were not idle in the house of the Lord. Neither was their place there a mere subordinate one, nor their work such as bore with no effect on the advancement of the cause of the Redeemer. Their work was less seen than that of others, whose labours were chiefly on the outside of the tabernacle. Their work was more hidden, for they wrestled in "the holiest." There they were taking no rest to themselves, and they were giving no rest to the Lord; and no contribution of service to the work of the Lord could be more precious than theirs, who were moving by prayer the very arm of omnipotence.

The chief care of the Ross-shire fathers was to raise a godly seed. Personal Christianity was the great object on which their attention and their labour were bestowed. They were not anxious, merely to spread a layer of religion thin over the face of society, but to obtain, from the Lord's hand, living specimens of the power of His grace. They were anxious, too, to employ in the work of the Lord only such as were prepared by Himself. There did not attend the progress of their work the outward bustle, arising from the wanton multiplication of agents and of means, that, in other places may have got up a superficial religious excitement. Now-a-days the chief care seems to be expended on the construction of a social Christianity. Personal godliness is not so carefully required as in the days of the fathers. If there be no overt ground for suspecting the religion of an individual, a place and work will be given him in the house of the Lord. The stones that seem at all in shape, are taken as they are, and placed in the building. No care being taken in selecting and in hewing, much building work is done. Ordinary decency being all that is required to secure them employment, many agents are at work about the house of the Lord. But, in reality, how little may after all be achieved.

Of the two kinds of labour, that of the Ross-shire fathers was the safer and the more efficient. The living stones did find their place, and the spiritual priesthood their work, in the temple of the Lord, but not so many more besides, as to hide and overwhelm them; and the progress of the building, if not noisy and rapid, was solid and sure. But out of the mass of building carelessly raised after a different system, how few living stones, and out of a multitude of workmen hastily collected, how few spiritual priests, may in the day of trial be found? A seemingly thriving, and a really active church, may be the embodiment of a great practical lie.

It was only in defence of the blessed memory of the righteous, that a comparison has been drawn between the type of religion peculiar to the north, and that which prevails in the south. Instead of doing so to provoke animosity and debate, it were better, while accepting the genuine in all its developments, to admire the wisdom of the Lord, as displayed in the variety. If the peculiarity of the Celtic temperament, and of the Celtic piety, unfitted the godly Highlander for the activities of a more public position, the Lord, whom he served, did not call him to go forth; and if, in the more uniform hopefulness of the Christian Lowlander, there is aptness for employment so uncongenial to the other, the Lord nas assigned him his position in a more bustling sphere. But if his father keeps David at home, while Eliab is in arms on the battle field, let not the praying shepherd boy forget his brother in the fight, nor let the warrior in his armour despise the stripling with his sling, for when the victory has been won, his hand will be found to have done more than his own to achieve it.

4. The fellowship meeting was a very early product of the vital Christianity of the Highlands. It arose spontaneously out of the lively feeling pervading the first groups of believers there. We cannot conceive of a party of exercised Christians met together, without some converse regarding the fruits and evidences of true godliness. Such converse would naturally arise if there was any unsuspecting inter change of thoughts in their intercourse. One of them would be sure to have his doubts and difficulties; these he would state to his brethren; add they, from the word of God and their own experience, would endeavour to afford him suitable counsel and comfort. Finding such converse to be edifying, and remembering that Christians are exhorted to comfort and to edify one another, what would be more likely than that they should set apart seasons for that duty, that He who gave the counsel, might have to record the fact, "even as also ye do." In order to conduct the exercise in an orderly way, what would be more likely than that they should choose him, whom they accounted the most advanced among them to preside over them, and that he should ask each one who could do so, to speak to the question in course? Thus the fellowship meetings would be at last set up. Why should not the minister then adopt it, and by taking the direction into his own hands, do all he could to provide for its being conducted "decently and in order?" And this is just the story of the rise and establishment of the Highland Fellowship Meeting. It was the product, not of the peculiar natural temperament of Highlanders, but of the lively spiritual feeling of Christians, fostered by the warm brotherly love that prevailed in the days of its origin. It is an interesting fact, that on one of the slopes of the Pyrenees, where the Lord has reserved a small remnant of living Christians to Himself, conventicles, exactly corresponding to the fellowship meetings of the Highlands of Scotland, are held; the only differences being, that there they "speak to the question" in French and not in Gaelic, and that they have no minister to patronise and direct them. So naturally, indeed, do such meetings arise out of a healthful state of religious feeling, that the communities, in which they are awanting, are those from whom an apology is required.

5. The most evident peculiarity yet remains to be considered, the paucity of communicants in Highland congregations. Lowlanders trace this to an unhealthy state of feeling on the part of the people, and to unwise teaching on the part of the ministers. Both people and ministers are thus put on their defence.

It would seem, at first sight, more likely that the different state of matters in the south should be right. The great men, and the learned are there, and those who differ from them may be supposed to be mistaken. But what if it should be otherwise? There were great men and good in the north who thought so; and the fact that the godly ministers in the Highlands possessed such influence in moulding the views and habits of the people, and such facility in carrying on the Lord's work according to their own ideal, is a reason why a defence of them is the more necessary, and is, at the same time, a strong stimulus and encouragement to attempt it. It would, indeed, be more than unwise, out of blind reverence for the fathers, to take for granted that all must be right which we have received from their hand. It would be unsafe and insane, to close one's eyes before the halo of their piety, and to accept without enquiry all that they have given us; but it would be casting contempt on men, who have claims to our profoundest respect, to take for granted that they were wrong because their practice was exceptional; and his would be a craven heart, who would shrink from their defence, if he judged them to be right.

They of the south maintain, that both the sacraments, being seals of the same covenant, and imposing the self-same obligations, ought to be administered on the same footing, the same kind and measure of profession and of qualification being required, on the part of applicants for either; that no adult should be admitted to the one, without being admitted also to the other; and that the Christian profession required of a parent, in order to the baptism of his child, cannot be complete, without his being a communicant. The result of these views being carried into practice in the Lowlands, or rather the result of their mode of reducing them to practice, is, that with rare exceptions, all the members of a congregation, above a certain age, go to the table of the Lord, and that any parent, who is a communicant, receives, as a matter of course, baptism for his child.

The Ross-shire fathers held, that though in general, the two sacraments were equally seals of the covenant of grace, they do in some respects differ, even as sealing ordinances; that baptism, being the door of admission into the visible Church, a larger exercise of charity is required in dealing with applicants for that sacrament, than is called for in ad ministering the other, which implies a confirmation of those who were members before; that the lessons of baptism are more elementary than those of the sacrament of the Supper; that the connection of the child, and of both the parents, with an ordinary case of infant baptism, calls for peculiar tenderness on the part of church rulers; and that the rule of Scripture requires baptism to be given, on an uncontradicted profession of faith, while an accredited profession is required to justify the church, in granting admission to the table of the Lord. The result of carrying these views into practice is well known; the number of members in full communion is comparatively small, and parents who have never communicated, receive baptism for their children.

The Ross-shire fathers of course held, that the two sacraments were in general, seals of the covenant of grace, and that, as such, they were equally valid. But they also held, with Maastricht, that they did not specially seal the same measure of privilege. They regarded baptism as the sacrament of admission, specially sealing the believers introduction into the covenant of grace, and his interest in the initial blessings of regeneration and justification, and formally admitting him into the general membership of the visible Church. They regarded the Lord's Supper as the sacrament of nurture, specially sealing the believer's right to all that is required to advance him to "the stature of a perfect man in Christ Jesus;" and formally admitting him, when first administered, into full communion with the church, as one who, by the seeming fruits of his faith, had established his claims to the Church s confidence. They also held, that, in the professions required from applicants, there must be a corresponding difference; the profession, in either case, being suitable to what is specially sealed by the Sacrament, for which they apply — an applicant for baptism, making a suitable profession, when declaring his faith in Christ, and specially his willingness to receive Him as his Saviour, and his resolution to serve Him as his Lord; but that a person, desiring to communicate, must profess not merely the first exercise of faith in Christ, but a persuasion or a hope, derived from an examination of his experience and his life, that his faith is that which "worketh by love," "purifieth the heart," and "overcometh the world." They, moreover, held that there must be a corresponding difference in the actions of the Church in administer ing the Sacraments — that the Church ought to sustain, in the case of a person applying for baptism either for himself or for his child, a profession not made incredible by ignorance and immorality; but that none ought to be admitted to the Lord's table in whom, after examination, tenderly and wisely con ducted, no seeming evidence of grace can at all be discerned; or, as Dr. M'Donald was accustomed to state it, applicants for baptism should be admitted on an uncontradicted, and applicants for the other sacrament on an accredited, profession of faith.

There are here three distinct statements; the first defining the distinctive characters of the two sacraments, the second describing the profession required on the part of applicants for either, and the third, laying down the rule of the Church s duty in dealing with these applicants. If the position assumed in the first of these statements is tenable, the defence of the others is secured. But, let it once be determined that there is no such difference between the two sacraments, as has been indicated, and it will be impossible to hold the position that they ought not to be administered by the Church on the very same footing, or that she should require a different profession and a higher qualification from applicants in the case of the one than she insists on in the case of the other. But if the distinctive characters of the two sacraments be such, as the Ross-shire fathers were accustomed to define them, the practical distinction observed in their mode of administering them can be triumphantly defended. And yet it would seem an easy thing to defend the first point of attack, though one cannot but suspect that something is overlooked in examining the position, and that this accounts for the confidence with which it is scanned, when he looks to the hosts across the Spey who are marshalled against him.

It is not denied that baptism is a seal of the cove nant of grace, and that an interest in all the bless ings of that covenant is secured to the believer, at the moment of his union to Christ. Nor is it denied, that the blessings which are said to be specially sealed to the believer by baptism, are an earnest of all spiritual blessings in heavenly places. At the same time, it is held, that the blessings of regeneration and justification alone, are directly presented in "baptism to the understanding and faith of the believer; and that it was the divine intention, as de clared in the divine word, specially to seal by this sacrament an interest in these blessings alone. (Rom. vi. 1-4 ; Col. ii. 12 ; Acts ii. 38.) It is difficult to see how, without this limitation of its special effect as a seal, baptism, once for all, is sufficient. The fact that it is administered only once to the same individual, is instructive and necessary, according to the view of it now given. It teaches the consoling truth, that once in Christ, the believer is for ever in Him, that once regenerated he is for ever spiritually alive, and that once justified he is for ever free from condemnation.

If these blessings alone are specially sealed by baptism, how and when is an interest in them obtained? At the moment of the soul's union to Christ, and, in the case of an adult, when he first exercises faith in Jesus. If so, this act of faith is what an applicant for baptism must profess. He may at once, yea, he ought immediately to profess it; and on that profession he may be "baptized straightway." Such was the profession on which the Pentecost converts, the Eunuch, the Philippian jailor, and Lydia were baptised. It was the invariable rule to sustain such a profession in the days of the apostles. They did so not as men inspired to judge infallibly the state of those who applied to them. Instead of this, they refrained from forming any positive judgment regard ing the state of professing believers. They acted as wise men, but as mere men and charitable, not as in spired men and infallible; and casting the responsibility on those who made it, they administered baptism on an uncontradicted profession of faith. Proof that they were not infallible, is furnished by every recorded case of apostacy, and proof that they did not venture to pass judgment on the state of applicants, is clearly furnished in Philip's method of dealing with the Eunuch. What but a merely uncontradicted profession of faith could there have been in the case of one, whose conversion could only have occurred a few minutes before ? He "was baptised, he and all his straightway." There was no opportunity of knowing him by his fruits. He professed to have just believed in Christ, and there being nothing known to forbid the hope that his profession was genuine, he was at once baptized. Now, if it was the same profession that was required by the apostles for the baptism of oneself, as for the baptism of his child, and if it was, and could only be such, as the "charity" that "thinketh no evil" alone could accept, was not this exactly the practice of the Ross-shire fathers in administering that ordinance?

It may be objected, however, that the profession of a parent, educated under the gospel, ought to embrace more than that of a recent convert. We ought, indeed, to expect more knowledge in the former case; but if that is competent, and if his conduct furnishes no positive evidence against him, why should not his profession of faith be accepted? And there is, in his case, a reason why it should, not found in the case of one claiming baptism for himself. He is already a member of the Church, and as "the infants of such as are members of the visible Church are to be baptised," on no ground can the baptism of his child be refused, that will not justify the Church in excommunicating or suspending him. The fact of his not being a communicant is held, in the south, to be a sufficient reason for refusing the baptism of his child. If it be so, it must be a good reason for at least suspending him from the enjoyment of all the privileges of his status, as a member of the Church. To refuse baptism, is but to take that suspension for granted, when there is no such act of the Church to which to refer. And the strange thing is, that the very man who would be punished to the extent of disallowing his membership altogether, would be, at the very same time, rewarded with both the Sacraments, if he would take them! The one, which demands the larger exercise of charity in its administration, is refused, but both would be given him at once! He, who is on the eve of being excluded from the pale of the Church, will be welcomed into the full communion of the Church, if he will only offer himself to her embrace!

It may be said, that, by not accepting of both the Sacraments, he proves himself unfit for either of them. This might be allowed, if it might be taken for granted, that in absenting himself from the Lord's table, he indicated a wilful contempt of Christ's authority, and a wanton neglect of His ordinance. But surely this is not always the case; and we are firmly persuaded, that such a feeling as often finds expression in the conduct of those who go to the table of the Lord, as in that of many in the north who refrain from communicating; the difference between some of either class being simply this — the former, being dead to all the solemn considerations suggested by the ordinance of the Supper, are bold to go forward, while the latter, having some sensitiveness of conscience, shrink from approaching the table of the Lord, fearing that it is not legitimate nor safe for them to do so.

It is altogether unfair, to charge on the Ross-shire fathers any remissness, in requiring from parents the due discharge of their duties towards their children. They were careful to seek security to the Church for "the godly upbringing of the young;" but this they obtained, more effectually, than by making each! parent a communicant, by taking pains, in private and public catechising, to teach them the doctrines of grace, and the requirements of the law of the Lord. The plain truth is, that they were invariably more strict in administering baptism, than their brethren in the south, who differed from them mainly in this, — that while opening the door of admission more widely than they, these laid the other Sacrament in front of it, not as a barrier against the rush of the multitude, but as a broad stepping-stone to facilitate their access.

The views of the Sacrament of the Supper, and the practice in administering it, which are peculiar to the north, remain to be considered. The difference between it and the other Sacrament, insisted on by the ministers in the Highlands, has been already pointed out. This distinction was clearly seen, and firmly acted on, by the Ross-shire fathers. They were fully persuaded in their own minds as to this matter. They had no difficulty in regarding the Sacrament of the Supper, as intended by the Lord, specially to seal something other and higher than that which is specially sealed by baptism. They called it with Mastricht, "sacramentum nutritionis," as being intended to be an occasional feast to believers, during all their wilderness journey. They beheld, in the symbols of Christ's body and blood, the clearest and the closest manifestation of the glory of the Lord, and in the exercise of those who partake of them, the nearest approach to the Lord, that can be on the earth. They regarded the guests, at that table, as having the most conspicuous con nection with the cause and glory of Christ. They saw the Church pointing the eye of the world to a Communion table, to inform them whom she accredited as the true people of God. On all these accounts, they felt that they were specially called to guard the passage to the table of the Lord, and to subject to the closest scrutiny all who would approach it. And surely they were right. And if they were, how can an indiscriminate, a wholesale admission to this Sacrament be justified, when the mass is just as heterogeneous as that with which they had to deal?

As to the propriety of carefulness in granting admission to the table of the Lord, as a matter of opinion, there will be no dispute, whatever may be the difference in practice. Those who condemn the mode of administering the Sacraments followed in the north, must insist that there is no more urgent call to fence the table of the Lord, than there is to guard the Sacrament of Baptism. If they can establish this, from the nature of the two Sacraments, and from the Word of God, they may prove the Ross-shire practice to be wrong; but just as surely as they do so, they will fail in showing that their own is right. If there is an equally urgent call to be careful in the case of both, they may prove it is not right to make a distinction in administering them; but they cannot surely make out, what would be the only justification of their own practice, that it is right not to be careful as to either. But the former they will fail, and the latter they wont try, to prove.

It is surely unnecessary to furnish any proof of the statement, that both the Sacraments do not specially seal the same blessings, though both are, in general, equally seals of the covenant of grace. If it were not so, it would be impossible to show why there should be two; a second would be quite superfluous, if it specially sealed no more than the first; but surely there is no redundancy, where only two are acknowledged and administered. If baptism seals the believer's introduction into the covenant, and his interest in the blessings bestowed on him immediately on his union to Christ, and if these blessings are an earnest of all "spiritual blessings in heavenly places," the other Sacrament directly seals his right to all, of which he had a sealed earnest given to him before. The Lord's Supper, as a seal, was intended to assure believers of their interest in all that was required to prepare them for glory, and, as a feast, was appointed to be a means of applying that provision to their souls.

It is difficult to conceive how any serious objection could be offered to this representation of its use. "This cup," saith Christ, "is the New Testament in my blood," the fulness of the blessings of that covenant, as procured by His blood, being by these words, in explanation of the symbol, specially represented and sealed to believers. In only one of the four descriptions given in Scripture of the mode of celebrating the Lord's Supper, is there any mention of the blessing of pardon, and there it is not spoken of, as if specially sealed at the time. It is only referred to, in such a way as to intimate, that it was un necessary specially to seal it, this having formerly been done. "This is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." In these words, Christ mentions it in a doctrinal statement to explain how the provision of the covenant was secured to His people by His blood, and what was the divinely appointed order in which that provision was applied. Their justification is taken for granted, and the abstract blessing is pointed to, only in its place in the arrangements of the covenant, as an earnest of all other spiritual blessings; and the benefits, of which it is an earnest, are alone directly represented and specially sealed.

If it seals a more advanced privilege, it teaches a higher lesson than baptism. It presents to us the mystery of Christ s person, and the mystery of Christ s death, in relation to the everlasting covenant of grace. Deeply did the disciples feel that these lessons were not easily learned. In presence of no other, does a living soul feel more dependent on divine teaching, than when before the lesson of the words, "this is my body which is broken for you." And who, being one of the "disciples indeed," will deny, that he is only slowly creeping on his way to the high attainment of tracing his salvation, entirely and closely, to the death of Christ, as its only chan nel, and to the covenant love of Jehovah, as its primary source? In baptism, on the other hand, Christ is represented in the general aspect of His office, as a Saviour from sin, and its lessons are those which are given to the class of beginners — our need of cleansing from sin; Christ as the only "fountain opened for sin and uncleanness;" the necessity of an interest in Him; the infallible certainty of salvation to all who are found in Him; and the obligation resting on all who believe in His name to "walk in newness of life."

And surely those who are admitted to the table of the Lord, are placed in closer and more manifest connection with the cause and the glory of the Lord, than they ever were before. Even if the Lord's Supper were nothing more than a second seal, it would have this effect. All the more, if it specially seals an advance of privilege. He who comes to the table of the Lord, must come nearer than before to the Lord of the table. At the great love-feast there spread, the guests are seated as at the family table, in the house of the King, and those who admit them, point the eye of the world to them, as the accredited children of Zion. Of the merely baptized they may say, "these have come into the house of the Lord, but we merely admitted them, in the charitable hope that they might prove, what they professed to be." But of these others they must say, "we have tried them, and we accredit them as approved followers of Christ."

Is there not then good ground for maintaining, that the way to the table of the Lord ought to be more strictly guarded than the outer door of His house? Must not the applicant for admission to it profess that he has been regenerated and justified already? Can he sit down at a feast without professing that he lives, has appetite for the food placed before him, and has an invitation from Him by whom it was provided? Is he not expressly commanded to examine himself as to these things, "and so," and only so, "to eat of that bread, and drink of that cup?" And can the church deal faithfully with him, without instituting a closer scrunity than before, into his knowledge, experience and conduct, when he is now extending his profession, and taking a nearer position to the Lord among His followers on earth? Can the Church be faithful to her Head without doing so? And was not this all that was done by the Ross-shire fathers, though a supercilious sneer is very often the only notice taken of their conduct?

Whatever opinion may be formed of the grounds on which the practice of the Ross-shire fathers was defended, it certainly has the advantage of being the only mode, according to which the rulers of the church can suitably express their varied feelings, towards applicants for sealing ordinances. There will always be about the church, those who may be excluded, and in the church, those who may be extruded, without any breach of charity. Against these let the door of admission be shut. Within the church, also, there have always been those who make a profession of religion, which cannot be summarily rejected, but which can win no unsuspecting confidence. Let such be allowed to remain within her pale, but into full communion let them not be admitted. Let only such as have accredited their profession be re ceived within the inner circle, by the sealing ordinance of the Supper. This is the only course of procedure on the part of church rulers, that can be suitable in relation to the three classes with whom they have invariably to deal; and this was the practice of the Ross-shire fathers. Acting on their views of the distinctive characters of the two sacra ments, they enjoyed a liberty in dispensing ordinances which they cannot have, who, acting according to different views, are under the painful constraint of being compelled, either to exclude an applicant from membership altogether, or to admit him within the innermost circle, around the table of the Lord.

Am I not justified in cherishing the hope of their being Christians, regarding some professors, whom I cannot confidently embrace as brethren in the Lord? Ought I to admit them into intimate fellowship, till I become more satisfied than I am as to their acquaintance with the power of godliness? Surely I am not required summarily to reject all whom I cannot confidently receive as Christians, nor to be on terms of intimate fellowship with all whom, in the judgment of charity, I regard as such. And why should not the same liberty be allowed to the church? Is she bound to exclude from her pale, all whom, into full communion, she cannot admit? Yet such would be her bondage, if the two sacraments were to be administered on the same footing. But such fetters were never placed by Christ's hand on the conscience of the church. They who are in this state of bondage have themselves forged their chains.

The practice, peculiar to the north, has another marked advantage; it is admirably adapted to meet the various feelings of applicants for sealing ordinances. When a Christian applies for admission to the table of the Lord, who is enabled to express a hope of an interest in Christ, and in whom some seeming marks of grace are discerned, at once, but not because any judgment of his state has been formed, his request is complied with. But among true Christians there have always been differences as to the measure of their hope. All of them incline to seek communion with the church, but some of them can only come, with a trembling heart, to ask for the privilege. One of these comes to a pious Highland minister in olden times, to speak to him about communicating. Does the minister insist on his expressing an assurance of his conversion, before he grants him admission to the table of the Lord? Does he require him to satisfy him, by a record of his experience, that the change through which he passed was really spiritual and saving? Not at all. How, then, does he act? He examines him closely, but wisely and tenderly; and in the measure in which he finds such views and feelings, as seem to indicate a work of grace in his soul he labours to remove his difficulties, and offers him all needed counsel and encouragement, when giving him a token of admission to the table of the Lord.

Let us suppose this man under the regime of the South. Not being a communicant, he is, in the judgment of the church there, no member of the church at all. His status, as a member of the church, because of his own baptism in infancy, is disallowed; although, by no formal act of the church, had he ever been deprived of it. He will be acknowledged as a member, only if he communicates; although at the time he is a member of the mystical body of Christ, and had been admitted into the visible church by baptism before! The sacrament of the Supper is thus made the door of admission to the church! By a very mysterious process of transposition, the inner becomes at once the outer door of the house of the Lord! Let us further suppose that this man is a parent, and that he is applying for the baptism of his child. Meeting with no one to sympathise with his scruples as to the other sacrament, and no effort made to remove them, he resolved not to ask a token of admission to the table of the Lord. He is asked if he is a communicant, and simply because he says he is not, and cannot promise to become one, the privilege for which he asks is refused. This refusal rests on a denial of his being a member of the church. No minister, it is presumed, would refuse to baptize the infant of a parent, who himself had just been baptized, before he had at all partaken of the sacrament of the Supper. The apostles, we know, did not refuse to do so. Baptism conferred, in their judgment, the privilege of membership in the visible church. Be cause the parent thus became a member, his child also was baptized. But refuse the applicant in the supposed case, and you act towards the man on the assumption, that he is not a member of the church at all; and you thrust out that timid child of God beyond the pale of the church, because he has not yet the courage to ask for admission into full com munion.

The following case has actually occurred. A Highlander, temporarily residing in a Lowland district, applies to a minister for the baptism of his child. He is one of that minister's most regular hearers. The elders report him as correct in all his habits. He is in fact the only one in the district in which he resides who maintains the worship of God in his family, though his neighbours are all communicants. But because he cannot declare that he is, nor promise to become, a communicant, he is summarily dismissed. After him comes to the same study a man from whom his children often heard an oath, but from whom they never yet heard a prayer, and who seldom returned sober from a market; but he is a communicant, and of course his child is baptized the very next Sabbath!

Let us suppose the case of one whose profession is really false, though his knowledge is competent, and his known habits correct. He applies to a Lowland minister for the baptism of his infant. He has him self a suspicion that matters are not right between his soul and the Lord, but he is anxious that his child should be baptized. In order to obtain that, he smothers his scruples, and agrees to become a communicant. What effect will this have on the mind and heart of that man? What must he think of the minister who will insist on his taking both the sacraments, while he himself is aware that he is unfit for either of them? With what feelings will he receive the highest attestation of his profession, which the church has thus thrust upon him, while his own conscience testifies to its falseness? And how will his communicating affect his soul? He will have borne down all his rising scruples, and left the communion table under the judgment of increased hardness of heart. If he had to do with one of the Ross-shire fathers, the privilege he first sought would not, indeed, have been withheld from him. In such a case it could not, as there was no overt contradiction, of his profession of faith, by his conduct. The minister would remember too, that if either parent was a believer, the child must be "holy;" and that the probabilities as to both father and mother must be taken into account, as well as the interests of the child; and, therefore, after serious dealing with his conscience, and casting the responsibility on himself, he would agree to baptize his child. But he would do no more. This is all the account he makes of the man's profession. His giving him the baptism of his child was doing as much as the man's profession would bear, and his not offering him the other sacrament, was a testimony on the side of conscience in the breast of him with whom he was dealing.

Four most desirable results were secured by the mode of dispensing sealing ordinances, practised in the north, which go far to prove, that it was according to the mind, and was crowned with the blessing, of the Lord. 1. The church was preserved from the extreme of exclusiveness, on the one hand, and from that of laxity, on the other. The door of admission was open to all "whom piety, charity, and prudence," would admit, and the inner circle was guarded from the profane rush of the crowd. 2. It marked and preserved a distinction, so far as this can be legitimately done, between the approved followers of Christ and all others. This distinction, as an ecclesiastical one, is quite blotted out, when both sacraments are administered on the same footing. 3. It kept up, in the consciences of non-communicants, a sense of short-coming, that would have been quite extinguished under a different system. 4. It always reminded the ministers of the danger of indiscriminate preaching, and secured some consistency between what was faith fully said in the pulpit, and what was done in the session-house. When a minister has always a congregation of communicants before him, he is easily led to address them from the pulpit, as it ought to be fitting he should, when standing at the head of the table of the Lord. It is difficult to change one's form of addressing the same congregation, though standing, on one occasion, in the pulpit, and on another be fore it.

As to the prevalent feeling, in the minds of Highlanders, in reference to the sacrament of the Supper, there has been much misconception in the south. It is supposed that the majority are utterly indifferent about it, and that some of the few pious people scare themselves away from it by superstitious notions of its sanctity. This is almost entirely a mistake. It might be an improvement on the state of matters else where, if all the communicants had as much respect for this ordinance as many of the non-communicants of the north, and took their way of expressing it; and it is the invariable experience of a Highland minister, that all whom he would wish to bring forward, do, sooner or later, apply for admission to the table of the Lord. It is often said, that as it is a sin not to confess Christ before men, by obeying His dying command, his must be a most unhealthy state of feeling who, without a disquieting sense of guilt, can refrain from doing so. This cannot be denied; but let it not be forgotten, that the sin which should, in the first instance, be felt, is not his absenting himself from the table of the Lord, but his not coming to the Lord of the table. His error lies in his not coming to Christ, that he might be entitled to communicate. The lack of faith is his first want, and profession cannot surely supply it. And yet, if all are to be told without qualification, that it is a sin not to communicate, the result will be, a rush to the communion table to get rid of the uneasiness which such doctrine produces. And will not this be, in effect, to make profession a substitute for faith, and a shelter for unbelief?

At least something might be said as an excuse for the state of feeling in the north, in reference to the sacraments. Our enlightened friends in the south must not expect to find the body of the people, in our dark region, skilled to act on general principles, or so wise as to be guided otherwise than by simple and direct inferences from the Word of God, or so experienced as to have corrected their first impressions. And when a simple Highlander, without any formula to guide him in his study, takes up his Bible to learn from it what the Lord says about this matter, and meets in it with no recorded instance of an unbeliever at the Lord's table, and ponders the solemn warnings by which it is guarded; when he contrasts the select companies, who communicated, with the crowds of whose baptism an account is given, and meets with no sanctions, around the one ordinance, that seem to compare with those by which the other is fenced, is it a wonder that this disciple should carry with him from the perusal of the Bible, a more solemn impression of the one sacrament than of the other? If that man's state of feeling is not to be regarded with respect, let it not at least be treated with rudeness. And can we wonder that he, accustomed to see the southern practice followed by the Moderates around him, whom he regarded as ungodly men, never looking for guidance from on high, should have imagined, that what he had originally derived from a study of the Word of God, was confirmed to him by experience, that he should therefore have held his own views very firmly, and have looked with grave sus picion on the state of mind and feeling that differed from his own.