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.


The Days of the Fathers in Ross-shire

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


Appointed Missionary at Eriboll — First Appearance — First Sermon — State of Religion in the District — Preaching Stations — Major Mackay — Mr. Mackay Hope — Donald M Pherson — Robert M'Leod — Mrs. Mackay — Communion at Kinlochbervie — Translation to Assynt — Success — Trial — Marriage.

IN 1802 he was appointed missionary at Eriboll. It was on a Saturday he first arrived there. The people were looking for the new minister, and were watching the road by which they expected him to come. They saw a young man of a fair complexion, and a frame that seemed, in their eyes, a model of symmetry and power, walking past with a step so light that it scarce bent the heather; but the more they admired the athletic Highlander, the further were they from conjecturing that he was their future minister. To the no small surprise of the people, the traveller, whom they observed on the Saturday, mounted the pulpit on the Sabbath, and, before the sermon was over, they were all disposed to join with Major Mackay, who said, "We had a minister, before, who was a Christian; but we have now a minister who is both a man and a Christian." His text on that Sabbath was Isaiah xl. 11; and through the sermon preached several persons received their first impressions of divine things, who gave proof, till their death, of their having in their hearts the true fear of the Lord. On the ministry thus auspiciously begun, the blessing of the Lord rested till its close.

Eriboll had enjoyed the ministry of Mr. Robertson, afterwards of Rothsay and of Kingussie, and of Mr. M'Bride, afterwards of Arran. The labours of these men of God had been blessed, and the fruit of them appeared in a goodly remnant of living souls, who were "the light" and "the salt" of the district, and in the respect for the means of grace entertained by the whole body of the people. My father often spoke of a certain glen, in which about thirty families resided, in each of which there was, at least, one who feared the Lord, and in each of which there was the true worship of God. The houses in this blessed hamlet were close together, around the sides of an amphitheatre, through which a small river had torn a course for itself. Standing on the edge of the declivity above this glen, on a quiet summer evening, one could hear the songs of praise from all these houses mingling together before they reached the listener's ear, whose heart must have been hard in deed if they failed to melt it. One, at least, did feel, while listening to the psalm-singing in these blessed homes, as if the place were none other than the house of God, and the very gate of heaven. By one ruthless eviction, all the tenants of that glen were banished from their homes, and the most of them found no resting-place till they reached the backwoods of Canada.

Though it was at Eriboll he resided, and most frequently officiated, he was required to preach occasionally at Melness, in the parish of Tongue, and at Kinlochbervie, in the parish of Eddrachillis. The distances between these places are considerable, and as there were no roads, it required no ordinary strength, and it tasked the best pedestrian, to over-take the necessary amount of work. Often, while in that charge, has he walked more than twenty miles to the meeting-house, over marsh and moor, and sometimes preached thereafter in clothes quite drenched with rain. But the Lord fitted him for such work, and his constitution came "scaithless" out of it. On one occasion, walking from Eriboll to Rhiconich, he was accompanied by his beadle, and by his youngest brother then a mere boy. They had not proceeded far when a snow-storm came on, and his little brother became quite exhausted. Raising him in his arms, my father carried him, and not only kept up with the beadle, but left him behind. The interval between him and the beadle was increasing so fast, that he at last waited till he came up, when he found him so wearied that he was compelled to relieve him of the portmanteau which he carried, and to strap it on his own back. Those who were waiting his arrival at the journey's end were not a little surprised to see him coming with the bag on his back, and the boy in his arms, and dragging the beadle by the hand.

Major Mackay then resided at Eriboll. Faithful in the service of his earthly sovereign, he was at the same time, "a good soldier of Jesus Christ." It was a rare sight to see him rise on a Communion Friday, in his regimentals, to "speak to the question." A gentleman, a soldier, a Highlander, and a Christian at once, it was no wonder that he was loved and respected, and this might be seen in the eager attention of the people when he rose to address them.

For his daughter, Mrs. Scobie of Keoldale, my father always cherished the highest esteem and affection. He corresponded with her during the whole of his life, and his letters to her indicate the warmest Christian friendship. She was generally regarded as the model of a Christian Highland gentlewoman. Her intellect was of a high order. Her appearance and bearing were such as would befit one of the highest stations in society. Many had proved her hospitality, and all of them found her heart fraught with kindness, and her pleasant home with comforts. The poor found her charity always fervent, and her hand always full. But beyond all these in price, were her devotion to the fear of the Lord, and her fervent affection for His servants and people.

With Mr. Mackay, of Hope, my father, was very intimate. He was a man eminent for godliness. The following anecdote, connected with his last days, is given on authority that may not be questioned. My father was to preach on a certain day, in a place not far from his house. Mr. Mackay, though very ill, would allow none of the family or domestics to remain with him, insisting on all in the house going to hear sermon. On their return, someone remarked to him that it was a precious sermon they had heard that day. "My soul knows that right well," he said, "for, though lying here, my mind was following the preacher's, as he was engaged in his work," and to their utter astonishment, he mentioned the text and repeated much more of the sermon than could those who actually heard it. This story, seemingly so incredible, is perfectly true, and furnishes a most remarkable instance of the mysterious fellowship of the saints.

The godly Donald Macpherson was still alive when my father was in Eriboll, of whom he has often said that, of all the Christians he had ever known, he was the man who lived nearest to the Lord. Many an hour of sweet profitable converse have they spent together. They have been known to retire to a lonely hillside, and there to spend, in prayer and conversation, a long summer day. It was exceedingly sweet to my father to recall the memories of this eminent saint. He was, in some respects, more like a seer of the days of old, than the ordinary Christian of the present time. His nearness to God in prayer was remarkable. Seldom, did he specially carry one's case before the throne, without its being so laid open to him, that there was scarce a thought or feeling of the party prayed for, hidden from him by the Lord. Remarkable instances of this might be multiplied.

The well known Robert Macleod was Donald Macpherson's devoted disciple. In whatever way Robert was at first awakened, it was through Donald's blessed instruction he was established in "the truth as it is in Jesus," and never was a soul more tenderly and wisely nursed, than that of this interesting in quirer. Ardent and honest, he, in his outset, needed a judicious friend; and in Donald Macpherson he found one, who could understand all his peculiarities, and who carried his case so closely under the light from the mercy-seat, that few of his fears and sorrows were hidden from him. No wonder though he venerated this man of God. The story of his first prayer, in Donald's family, has been often told. To Robert's bewilderment, his host abruptly asked him to pray at family worship, during a visit which he paid him. He dared not refuse; so, turning on his knees, and addressing his Creator, he said, "Thou knowest that though I have bent my knees to pray to Thee, I am much more under the fear of Donald Macpherson, than under the fear of Thyself." Donald allowed him to proceed no farther, but, tapping him on the shoulder, said, "that will do, Robert; you have honestly begun and you will honourably end," and then he himself concluded the service. Poor Robert's first attempt was not, he himself thought, very encouraging, and he was expressing to his friend his fear that he never could be of any use in bearing a public testimony for the truth. "Yes, Robert," his friend soothingly said, "the Lord will open your mouth, to speak the praises of free grace, and, as a sign of this, you will be called thrice to speak, the very first day you are called to speak in public." Soon thereafter, Robert heard that the communion was to be dispensed in Lochbroom, and that Mr. Lachlan was expected to be there. He went on the appointed week, but did not reach the place of meeting at Lochbroom till after the commencement of the service on Friday. He had not arrived, when Mr. Lachlan was opening the question, and yet, strange to say, the minister declared that he expected a recruit to the ranks of the speakers that day, from whatever quarter he might come. Robert just then made his appearance, and was not long seated, when he was called to "speak to the question." He did not refuse to rise, but was so embarrassed as to be able to utter only a few hurried words. Towards the close of the service, and after many others had spoken, Mr. Lachlan called Robert again, and said to him, "as you were taken by surprise before, you could not be expected to say much, but rise again, and the liberty formerly denied will be given you." Robert rose, and delivered a most affecting address, which so delighted the minister, that he called him to conclude the service with prayer. This was Robert's first public appearance, and he was called thrice to speak; and thus, the sign was given to him, which Donald Macpherson had led him to expect.

A remarkable instance of Robert's warm love to the brethren, and of his nearness to God in prayer, has been often repeated, and is undoubtedly true. The case of the godly John Grant was pressed closely on his spirit, along with an impression of his being in temporal want. He was strongly moved to plead with God for "daily bread " for His child, and so constantly was he thinking of him for three days, that at midday of the fourth he resolved to set out for John s house, and he gave himself little rest till he reached it. Full of the impression that stirred him from home, he arrived at the house, and entering it went at once to the place where the meal-chest used to be, and to his astonishment, found it nearly full. "This is a strange way, Robert, of coming into a friend's house," John said, as he advanced to salute him, "were you afraid I had no food to give you, if you should remain with me to-night? " No," was Robert's answer, " but that meal-chest gave me no small trouble for the last few days; but if I had known it was so far from being empty as I find it is, you had not seen me here to-day." "When did you begin to think of it?" John inquired. Robert mentioned the day and the hour when his anxiety about his friend began. "Well, Robert," John said, " the meal-chest was then as empty as it could be; but how long were you praying that it might be filled?" "For three days and a half I could scarcely think of any thing else," Robert answered. "what a pity," his friend said, " you did not complete the prayers of the fourth day; for on the first, I got a boll of meal, an other on the second, and a third on the day following, but, on the fourth day, only half a boll arrived, but now you are come yourself, and I count you better than them all." Then, rejoicing in each other's love, and in the love of their Father in heaven, who heareth the cry of the needy, they warmly embraced each other.

A still more remarkable person then resided within the bounds of the Eriboll Mission, Miss Margaret M'Dairmid, afterwards Mrs. Mackay. She was a native of Argyleshire, and came to reside in Sutherland along with a brother. During his lifetime, she was known only as a giddy girl full of fun, and with a way of doing things quite unlike that of all around her. It was her brother's death that was the means of fixing her attention on eternal things. He had been deer-stalking on a winter day, when the lakes were frozen over. Anxious to be at a certain point, before the herd of deer, he ventured on a frozen lake, that lay between him and his goal. He had not gone far, when the ice gave way, and he sunk in a moment and was drowned. The shock to his sister was appalling, but the season of her anguish was the Lord's set "time of love." Her soul's state and danger soon drew her mind from the affliction of her brother's death; and she was the subject of a searching work of conviction when my father came to Eriboll. Under his preaching, she was led to the foundation laid in Zion, and her new life began in a flush of fervent love that seemed to know no waning till her dying day. She was one among a thousand. Her brilliant wit, her exuberant spirits, her intense originality of thought and speech and manner, her great faith, and her fervent love, formed a combination but rarely found.

During the summer of each year, she was accustomed for a long time to come to Ross-shire, in order to be present on communion seasons, wherever she was sure of hearing the gospel, and of meeting the people of the Lord. In all those places, her presence was like sunshine, and many a fainting spirit was cheered by her affectionate counsels. Her greatest enjoyment was to meet with anxious inquirers, and many such have cause to remember for ever the wisdom and tenderness of Mrs. Mackay s advices.

Her visits sometimes extended to Edinburgh and Glasgow. On one occasion, she abruptly announced to her husband her intention of starting for the south. Her purse was, at the time, almost empty, and her husband could not replenish it; and she was also in a very delicate state of health. All this her husband was careful to bring before her, with a view to dissuading her from attempting the journey she proposed. But, assured that the Lord had called her to go, she would not look at the "lion in the way," and met every reference to her empty purse by saying, "the children ought not to provide for the fathers, but the fathers for the children, and it is not the Father in heaven who will fail to do so." In faith she started, and not a mile had she walked, when a gig drew up beside her, and the gentleman who drove it kindly asked her to take a seat. Thanking him in her own warm way, she sprang into the gig, and was carried comfortably all the way to the Manse of Killearnan. But it was the smallest part of her journey to Edinburgh that was passed on reaching Killearnan, and she could not calculate on travelling over the rest of it with an empty purse. Her faith, however, failed not, and "the Lord will provide," was her answer to every fear that arose in her heart, and to the anxieties expressed to her by others. Hearing that the sacrament of the Supper was to be dispensed at Kirkhill on the following week, she resolved to attend it, and to postpone her visit to the south till after it was over. She went, and on Monday a gentleman made up to her, after the close of the service, who handed to her a sum of money at the request of a lady who had been moved to offer her the gift. Mrs. Mackay gratefully accepted it; but being accompanied on her way back to Killearnan by a group of worthies, all of whom she knew to be poor, she divided all the money among them, assured that it was for them she received it, and that provision for her journey would be sent by some other hand. Her expectation was realised, a sum fully sufficient was given to her, and she started on her journey to the south.

Travelling by the stage-coach, she was accompanied by several strangers, who were quite struck with her manner, and afterwards fascinated by her conversation. One of them venturing to ask whence she had come, her beautiful and striking answer was, "I am come from Cape Wrath, and I am bound for the Cape of Good Hope." On one account alone were they disposed to quarrel with her. At that time there was a change of drivers at each stage, and at every halt, "remember the coachman," was called out at the window. Mrs Mackay invariably gave a silver coin and a good advice to each of the drivers. Her companions, not liking to be out-done by their strange fellow-passenger, and liking still less to part so freely with their money, at last remonstrated. "We can not afford to give silver always," one of them said, " and we cannot keep pace with you in liberality." "The King's daughter must travel as becomes her rank," she said, as she again handed the silver coin, and spoke the golden counsel to the driver. Before they parted, her companions were persuaded she was the cleverest, and the pleasantest, but the strangest person they had ever met. Many a refreshing visit she paid to all the Lord's people whom she could reach before she returned home; and when she did, it was with more strength in her frame, and more money in her purse than when she left it. Her husband, who had so strongly dissuaded her before, could only wonder now and give thanks to the Lord for His gracious care of her by the way. Of him she used to say, "he was just made for me by the Lord s own hand; the grace he had not at first, has now been given him, and he will allow me to wander for bread to my soul wherever I can find it."

She was usually called "the woman of great faith." "The woman of great faith!" a minister once ex claimed, on being introduced to her for the first time. "No, no," she quickly said;" but the woman of small faith in the great God."

In repartee few could excel her, or tried to get the advantage over her, without being foiled in the attempt. On one occasion, she met with Mr. Stewart of Cromarty, and few ever more dexterously poised a lance, or were more skilful of fence than he. He had heard of Mrs. Mackay, and resolved to draw her out. His congenial spirit soon evoked all her wit. Getting the advantage over him, Mr. S. threw himself on the sofa, exhausted by the excitement of the ren-contre, and a little chafed under a sense of defeat. A brother minister wished him to sit up, and to renew the conversation which had been so delighting. "Oh ! let him alone," Mrs. M. said, patting him on the head, "every beast, you know, must be after his kind;" shewing how well she had marked his originality, and how skilfully she could feather the arrow of rebuke with a compliment.

Dr. Mackenzie, when minister of Clyne, used, as often as he could, to bring his godly father to preach, on a week day, in his church. He invited on such occasions all the ministers of the presbytery to be his guests at the manse. Mrs. Mackay was present on one of these days, and being seated in the drawing-room after the service in church was over, the minister of Tongue came in. Rushing up to him, in her own eager way, "glad I am to see, and still more glad to hear you," she said. "Oh, you could not have been glad in hearing me to-day," Mr. M'K. said, with a sigh, "for I had but little to say, and even that little I could only speak in bonds." "Hush, man," was her quick reply,

A little that a just man hath,
    Is more and better far,
Than is the wealth of many such
    As lewd and wicked are."

and as she repeated the last two lines she waved her hand across the group of moderates who were seated beside her.

Her faith, always remarkable, triumphed in a season of affliction. A beloved son was once drowned, before her eyes, quite near the shore in front of her house. The body was soon found, and the mother, supporting the head of the corpse as they carried it to the house, was singing with a loud voice the praises of the Lord. She had learned as few Christians have ever done, to show the dark side of her case only to the Lord. However low her hope might be, and however harrowed her feelings, see would allow none to see a tear in her eye, or to hear a groan from her heart, except those with whom her secret was safe, and who would not be discouraged by her distress. Many were thus led to think, that her sky was always without a cloud. It was far otherwise, under God's eye; but the Christless never saw in her what would prejudice them against a life of godliness, and the godly were always encouraged by her ever-radiant cheerfulness.

Till her last illness her spirits had never sunk, nor had her mind lost aught of its activity and clearness. She died in April 1841. Even when lying on her death-bed, her cheerfulness did not forsake her, and she was always ready to give a word of advice or encouragement to all who approached her. Her husband had heard, a few days after it occurred, of my father s death, and determined not to communicate the tidings to his dying wife, as she was so soon to know it, by meeting his spirit in the region of the blessed. "With this resolution he entered her room, and sat gloomily down on a seat by the fire. "I know what ails you," his wife said to him soon after he was seated, "you have heard of Mr. Kennedy's death; I knew of it before. He died," she added, "on Sabbath evening, and," mentioning a certain day, "before then, I will join him in the Father's house." And so it was. So knit together, and so near to God, were the spirits of both, that less than the death of either would not be hidden from the other.

The Sacrament of the Supper was dispensed at Kinlochbervie, while he was missionary in the district. The only minister present with him on that occasion was the parish clergyman. The less that would be given him to do, the better pleased would he himseit and all others be, and so the whole burden of the service was left upon the missionary. The only available and comfortable room near to the place of meeting, was occupied by the ministers. A considerable number of respectable persons had gathered, among whom were Major Mackay of Eriboll, Mr. Mackay of Hope, and several others. In a corner of "the meeting house," there was a square seat into which heather had been packed, and there, covered with their cloaks, the Major and some others slept. The minister's housekeeper having to furnish the gentry with a light, as they retired to their sleeping place, failed to find a candlestick, and, being anxious to save appearances, was in no small ferment. In great perturbation, she came to her master to tell him that the only candlestick she could set before Major Mackay was "a peat with a hole in it." "There was no better candlestick in the stable at Bethlehem," was his only reply to her statement of grievances. He knew well that those about whose comfort Abigail was so anxious, were quite content with whatever provision was made for them. A great crowd of people had gathered, and the parcels of provisions which they carried with them were stored behind a screen, formed of a sail hanging from one of the rafters of the meeting-house. Each one came, at stated times, for his parcel, that he might eat his crust beside a stream on the hill-side. In barns they found accommodation during the night. But the Lord was in the midst of them, and many felt His saving power and saw His glory during that com munion season. On Monday, in particular, so much of the Lord's presence was enjoyed by His people, that, to many of them, it was the happiest day of their life. When the time for parting came, none had courage to say "farewell" to the minister. They lingered around him, and followed him to the house; and, before they separated, he and they sat down together, to a refreshment in the open air. That over, they walked together towards an eminence, over which the people had to pass. On reaching the summit, they stood around the minister as he prayed, and commended them to the care of the Good Shepherd of Israel. He then said to them, as tears ran down his cheeks, "This is pleasant, my dear friends, but it must end; we need not expect unbroken communion, either with each other or with the Lord, till we all reach in safety our home in heaven;" and, without trusting himself to bid them farewell, he turned away from them, and they, each one weeping as he went, took their respective journeys to their homes.

In 1816, he was called to be assistant to Mr. Wm. Mackenzie, minister of Assynt. He had been enabled to decide unhesitatingly, and at once, that it was his duty to accept the offered appointment. What his reasons for this decision were, and how the Lord had revealed His mind to him, there are now no means of ascertaining. But the issue proved that the Lord had indeed taken him by the hand to guide him. No sooner did the people become aware of his intention to remove from Eriboll, than grief and consternation spread over the district. Donald Macpherson was the only one who sympathised with him, being persuaded that the Lord was calling him away. To the rest, and even to the best of the people, it seemed very unlikely that the Lord, who had not ceased to countenance his labours among them, should take him from them in the very midst of his usefulness. For a time, they would listen to no argument on the subject; they wished to retain their minister; they could not see the Lord's hand in his removal, and, with tears and entreaties, they besought him to reconsider his decision and still to remain among them. One after another would wait upon him; groups would be watching for him whenever he went abroad; each one whom he met was weeping at the sight of him; and the congregation always now parted in tears. All this was extremely painful to him, but could not move him from his purpose. He knew what the Lord would have him to do, and he was resolved, at any cost, to follow His leading. At last, prayer-meetings were held by the people, and they were brought to ask for direction "from on high;" and, ultimately, they came to a sober and resigned state of mind and feeling. Donald Macpherson's influence greatly contributed to this result. The night before his departure, a deputation waited on him, and intimated to him that they could no longer oppose his removal, as they believed it was of the Lord, although it was, on that account, more painful to their hearts, fearing, as they did, that by their abuse of the gospel they had sinned it away. All that they now could do, they said, was to cross, as often as they could, the hills between them and the scene of his future labours. The state of feeling, thus indicated by the people, must have been gratifying to their minister, as it was creditable to themselves.

The actual parting had now come, and rarely has there been a more affecting scene than that through which he had to pass on the day of his departure from Eriboll. His servant, yet alive, remembers it most vividly. Strong men were bathed in tears, women in groups were wailing as he passed, and all watched to get the last look of him as he went out of sight. His servant, who followed him at some distance, hearing the sound of sobbing from behind a wall, went up to the place from which it issued, and found Mrs. Major Mackay and Mrs. Mackay, Skerra, seated there and weeping bitterly. Poor Barbara could not refrain from joining in the chorus of grief. One of the ladies, turning to her, said, "Little cause have you to weep this day; could we follow him, as you do, we would soon dry our tears." Their pity was reserved that day for those who remained in Eriboll.

Mr. William Mackenzie, the minister of Assynt, was almost all a minister ought not to be, yet he continued to occupy his charge till his death. Always accustomed to regard his pastoral work as an unpleasant condition of his drawing his stipend, he reduced it to the smallest possible dimensions, and would not unfrequently be absent, without reason and without leave, for many weeks from his charge. This was the usual practice, in these days, of the moderate stipend-lifters of Sutherland. The visit of one of them to Ross-shire would be an affair of a month's length, at the least, and the people never clamoured for his return. The beadle, who was also the parson's gillie, invariably accompanied the minister on these excursions. In one case the beadle was also the piper of the district, and during his absence with the minister, on one of his jaunts, a parishioner was asked when he expected the minister to return. "I don't know, and I don't care," was his reply; "if he had only left the piper, he might stop away as long as he pleased."

During the latter part of his life, "Parson William" was much addicted to drink. This was known to the Presbytery, but could not easily be proved. The people were unwilling to complain, and to give evidence against him. The awe of his office was on them in spite of all the irregularity of his life, and as a man and a neighbour he was rather a favourite. Such of them as might have been expected to act differently, cherished the hope of his yet seeing the error of his ways; and while they enjoyed the privileges of the gospel, under the ministry of his assistant, they let "Parson William" alone.

There was the least possible intercourse between the parson and his assistant. Consulting him only when absolutely necessary, the assistant carried on the parochial work in his own way, and was generally not interfered with. The parish was extensive and populous, and the church inconveniently situated. It was necessary, therefore, to divide the parish into districts, each with its preaching station, where the minister was expected to officiate in course.

His work, in Assynt, was early blessed, and was made effectual for good during the whole of his ministry there. Very seldom has so much been done in so short a time in the conversion of sinners, and in the edification of the body of Christ, as was done during the period of his labours in Assynt. There were then converted unto God many young men who, to old age, and in various districts of the Highlands to which they were scattered, bore fruit, to the praise of the Lord, and to the good of His Church. Assynt then became a nursery of Gaelic school masters and catechists, who were afterwards transplanted throughout the north and the west, and were known as "trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord," wherever they were placed. Of those who were then "turned from darkness into light," many, both men and women, were eminent for godliness and usefulness; and there was a peculiarity of feeling and of sentiment about them all that made them marked as a class. This was due to the deep im pressions their early training had left upon their minds.

To those days of power in Assynt were bound the sweetest memories of those who then enjoyed the presence of the Lord. Often in tears have they spoken of them afterwards, amidst the dreariness and trials of the way of the wilderness; and from many a broken heart, and in many an hour of sadness, has the remembrance of them wrung the cry, "Oh! that I were as in months past, as in the days when God preserved me; when his candle shined upon mine head."

Amidst his happiness and success in his labours in Assynt he had to bear what, in some respects, was the greatest trial of his life. Among the young men who then began to make a profession of godliness was one, perhaps the most talented of them all. Norman Macleod, known before as a clever, irreverent, forward youth, began all of a sudden to join himself to the people of the Lord. Claiming to have been converted in a way at least unusual if not miraculous, he all at once started in the course of profession, at a stature and with a courage that seemed never to have known a childhood at all. He began at once to prepare for the ministry. But Norman's ambition to preach outgrew the slow process of the stated course of preparation, and, cutting short his college studies, he separated from the Church, and began to found a sect for himself. His power, as a speaker, was such that he could not fail to make an impression; and he succeeded, in Assynt and elsewhere, in drawing some of the people after him for a time. His influence over those whom he finally detached from a stated ministry was paramount, and he could carry them after him to almost any extreme. A few of the people in Assynt were drawn into permanent dissent, and but for the influence that was brought to bear in counteraction of his movement, the whole body of the people would have been quite severed from the Church. Some, even of the pious people, were decoyed by him for a season, who escaped from his influence thereafter; and the people remained, as a body, unbroken. The anxiety and disappointment of this trying season were peculiarly painful to my father, but the Lord was with him to encourage his heart and to strengthen his hands. This discipline, though trying was profitable. It kept him humble, when there was much to elate him; sharpened his discernment, and doubled his watchfulness, in his future dealings with professors; and gave him an opportunity of estimating the motives in which divisive courses usually spring.

It was while in Assynt his marriage took place, an event in which he saw at the time, and loved to trace thereafter, the working of the Lord's own hand. Disposed to love him with all the ardour of a first attachment, prepared to reverence, as her husband, him who had first espoused her to Christ, and with prudence, of which her whole subsequent life was an unvarying proof, his wife was truly "a good thing," of the Lord's own giving. His happiness in his marriage was sweetened by the assurance that he would not have to bear the pain of surviving his wife. This anticipation, which he declared at the time, seemed very unlikely to be verified during the years that succeeded, throughout which he continued in the vigour of unbroken health, while his partner often lay at the very gates of death. But "the secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him," and the pleasing anticipation by which the Lord sweetened the enjoyment of his wedded life was in due time realized.