The Days of the Fathers in Ross-shire
by Rev. John Kennedy, D.D., of Dingwall
Killearnan — The State of the Parish before 1813 — Mr Kennedy's Induction — His Father's Death — Anecdotes — The Old Church — Mr. K's Usual Services — His Domestic Life — His Elders — His First Diet of Catechising — The Conversion of the Champion of Prelacy — The Pensioners, Alexander M'Donald and Alexander M'Leod — Old M'Farquhar — Colin of the Peats — Sandy Dallas — David Munro — The Cutterman — Mary M'Rae.
THE parish of Killearnan is pleasantly situated, along the northern shore of the Beauly Frith. It derives its name, according to tradition, from the grave of "Iernan, a Danish prince, who fell in battle on its confines; where Cairniernan still exists." It extends five miles along the shore, and stretches back, two miles to the north, till it reaches the brow of the Black Isle, which, because of its covering of furze, bears the Celtic name of Maolbuie.
Quite near to the shore stands Redcastle, which, owing to its traditional history, was so famous as to have covered the whole parish with its name. It was once a stronghold, and was the scene of some rather famous exploits, during the wars of the Stuarts, as well as in earlier times. Near it, Montrose is said to have been encamped, when tidings reached him of the death of Charles. An old manuscript, in the hands of the minister, who preceded my father, contained the following lines, said to have been written by Montrose, with the point of his sword, on receipt of the intelligence: —
"Great, good, and just, could I but rate
My griefs, and thy so rigid fate,
I'd weep the world to such a strain,
As should it deluge o'er again.
But, since thy loud-tongued blood demands supplies, More from Briareus Lauds, than Argus eyes,
I'll sing thy obsequies with trumpet sounds,
And write thy epitaph with blood and wounds."
In former times, the whole parish was under the rule of the Mackenzies, and the people being yet in a state of serfdom, followed their lairds wherever they chose to lead them. This will account for the strenuous opposition to the Whig ministers, which distinguished the parishioners of Killearnan, till the first half of the eighteenth century had passed.
Mr. JOHN M'ARTHUR, the first Presbyterian minister after the Revolution, was settled in 1719; and he had but a sorry life, during his brief ministry at Killearnan. He was succeeded, though perhaps not immediately, by Mr Donald Fraser, the father of Dr. Fraser, Kirkhill, who, about the year 1745, was translated to Ferintosh. He declared, before his removal, that he would not leave Killearnan if there was one man, woman, or child, in all the parish, who would ask him to remain. Besides these, and before 1758, two others, Messrs. Robertson and Williamson, were ministers of the parish. In that year, Mr. David Denoon was inducted. The state of the parish, when he became its minister, is thus described by his son, who succeeded him: — "The generality of the inhabitants were then ignorant in the extreme, and much disaffected towards our civil and ecclesiastical establishments. As a striking instance of this, the following circumstance is mentioned: The late incumbent was settled minister of this parish in 1758; he, eight months thereafter, publicly intimated after sermon, his intention of catechising the inhabitants of a particular district, on the following Tuesday; but on going to the house, which he had fixed on as the place of meeting, not above three miles from the church, he found a convention of only a few old women. Having never before seen their minister, they appeared much agitated, telling him, however, that he might have saved himself the trouble of coming to their town, as they had no whisky. They retired, one by one, and alarmed the neighbourhood, by saying, that a strange excise man had just come to such a house. Since that period, "he adds," the change is striking; the assiduity of the minister, in the discharge of his parochial duties, was attended with much success." "The house of God is now attended with regularity and devotion; they have learned, not indeed the cheerless refinements of modern philosophy, but, in the perusal of the Gospel of peace, to find a healing balm to soothe and comfort them under the pressure of all the calamities of life." The good work, begun under the ministry of the elder Mr. Denoon, continued to make progress under that of his son. The latter died in 1806.
At the time of my father s induction, there were upwards of 300 Episcopalians in the parish, in whom were found, surviving all the changes that had transformed the whole country around them, much of the ignorance of Scotland's old heathenism, much of the superstition of its Popery, and much of the disaffection of its Jacobitism. Apart from these, the people were now regular, in their attendance on the means of grace, in the parish church, neighbourlike in their habits, and with a sprinkling, among them, of the Lord s "peculiar people."
For nearly seven years, before my father's settle ment, the parish had been vacant, owing to a dispute as to the right of its patronage, between the Crown and the representative of the Cromarty family. In coming to Killearnan at first, he looked forward to the prospect of being minister of Lochbroom, the scene of his first stated labours, as a preacher; but instead of a presentation to that parish, he obtained and accepted a gift of the living at Killearnan. After labouring as an ordained missionary, in the parish, for nearly a year, receiving, for his services, a small moiety of the vacant stipend, his induction took place in 1813.
During the same year, his father s death took place; an event which, owing to the double tie that bound them, he could not but have deeply felt. Sweet to both, had been the occasional visits, which, since he had begun to preach, he paid to his father; and they were as profitable as they were pleasant. On these occasions, he always preached in his native parish. Once, while preaching there, on a Sabbath, he said, in a very marked and emphatic way, "There is one now present, who, before coming into the meeting, was engaged in bargaining about his cattle, regardless alike of the day, and of the eye, of the Lord. Thou knowest that I speak the truth, and listen, while I declare to thee, that if the Lord ever hath mercy on thy soul, thou wilt yet be reduced to seek as alms thy daily bread." The confidence with which this was said, was soon and sorely tried; and he passed a sleepless night, under the fear that he had spoken unadvisedly. At breakfast, next morning, in his father's house, several neighbouring farmers were present, one of whom said to him, as they sat at table, "How did you know that I was selling my heifers yesterday to the drover? " Did you do so?" my father quietly asked him. " I can't deny it," was the farmer's answer. Directing on him one of his searching glances, the minister said, "Remember the warning that was given you, for you will lose either your soul or your substance." " But will you not tell me hew you knew it?" the farmer asked. The only reply to this was, in the words of Scripture, "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him." Some of those who heard the warning given to him, were often applied to for alms by that farmer, during the latter years of his life.
On another occasion, in the same place, while warning sinners of their danger in a Christless state, he suddenly paused, and in a subdued and solemn tone, said, "There is a sinner in this place, very ripe for destruction, who shall this night be suddenly summoned to a judgment-seat." Next morning, the neighbours observed flames issuing from a hut, not far from the "meeting house," which was occupied by a woman, notorious for immorality, and in which, when they were able to enter, they found but the charred bones of its miserable tenant.
These are indubitable facts; if not, they were not recorded here; though perhaps some may sneer as they read them, and others may shake their wise heads over the supposed imprudence of stating them. A little careful thinking on the subject, might help one to see that, by means of the written word, under the guiding hand of His Spirit, the Lord may give such intimations of His will in a way very different from the direct inspiration of prophecy, and that ends are served, by these communications of His mind, that make it far from improbable, the Lord may have given them — for thereby His servants are encouraged, their hands are strengthened in their work, and proof is pressed on the consciences of the ungodly, that the true Israel of God are a "people near unto Him." And it is to simple and uneducated people, unable to appreciate the standing evidences of the gospel, we might expect the Lord to give such tokens of His presence with those who preach it. The improbability of such things, to the minds of some, is owing to their own utter estrangement from the Lord. This is not the only secret, connected with the life of godliness, which is hidden from them. They know not yet some secrets in that life of which it is death to be ignorant. It is not, to its occasional accessories merely, that they are strangers, but to its very essentials, and yet who so ready as they, to pass judgment on every one of its mysteries. It is a strange fact, that the only subject of which one can know absolutely nothing, without special teaching from on high, is, of all others, the one on which the most benighted of all the "children of darkness," thinks himself qualified to pronounce. The man who would shrink from directing the blacksmith in shoeing his horse, unless he had studied and practised his trade, will, before one lesson has been given him by the Lord, pass judgment off-hand, with all the airs of an adept, on the hidden life of the people, who alone have "the secret of the Lord." There are some, even of the godly, who are strangers to any such intimations of the will of their Father but, the longer they live, the less disposed will they be, to measure, by their own experience, the attainments of others of their brethren.
The church of Killearnan, till within two years of my father's death, was almost as bad as it could be. Built in the form of a cross, with the pulpit at one of the angles, its barn-like roof unceiled, its windows broken, its doors all crazy, its seats ill-arranged, and pervaded by a dim uncertain light, it was a dismal dingy-looking place within. But all applications for a new church, or for a sufficient repair of the old, were refused by the heritors. Tradesmen were found to declare, that the church was perfectly safe, and, whether it was comfortable or not, the heritors did not care, as they never sat in it themselves. Strange to say, the heritor, who chiefly opposed the application for a new church, lost soon after, by fire, much more than his share of the expense of erecting it; the carpenter, who declared the old church to be "good and sufficient," was killed, while going to purchase the wood, required for the trifling repair that was granted; and the lawyer, who represented the heritors at the presbytery, when the application for a new church was refused, was unable thereafter to transact any business. These are facts, and no comment on them is to be added; but there were some who regarded them as the echo from providence, of the voice that proclaimeth, "touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm."
His first sermon, as minister of Killearnan, was on the text — "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ;" and not more surely was this the text of his first sermon, than it was the rule of all his ministry there. The plan which he had formed, of conducting his work, and the measure of regular service, which he had allotted to himself, at the outset, he was enabled, without intermission, to follow and to fill up, to the very last week of his life. He preached thrice every Sabbath, held a fortnightly meeting on Monday, and delivered a monthly lecture on Thursday. He catechised his people every year, and visited the sick, as occasion required, or as the Lord might direct him. On Sabbath, the church was almost invariably overcrowded; the Monday meetings were well attended; and the church would be nearly full on the Thursday of the lecture, although the service was during the day, and in a busy country parish. These monthly lectures were specially addressed to the people of God, and often were they signally blessed. These days were known to be feasting times to the heritage of the Lord, and from great distances, were they accustomed to gather, to share in the provision of Zion. There were also, invariably, sermons preached on Christmas, and on New Year s Day, both these being idle days in the parish; and seldom, if ever, did either of them pass, without "a brand" being "plucked from the fire," or one of the Lord's people receiving special help and comfort, in the old church of Killearnan.
During all his ministry at Killearnan, he was accustomed to preach, on communion occasions, in all the surrounding parishes to which he had access. His journeys often extended to the western shore of the county, to Sutherlandshire in the north, and to Badenoch in the south. His soul never wearied of his Master's work, and his health was never impaired by all these journeyings and preachings. "I wish I could enjoy preaching as you do," a brother minister once said to him;" to me it is comparatively a toil." "No wonder," he replied, "though I should enjoy it, for if ever I had foretastes of heaven's own joy on the earth, it was while preaching Christ crucified to sinners;" "and never," he said, on another occasion, "did I truly preach the Gospel but while I felt that I myself was the greatest sinner in the congregation." The mingled labours and joys of these days are now for ever gone by, but the fruit of these labours shall for ever endure, and the fulness of pleasure, of which these joys were a foretaste, is his, in the home of the blessed.
Of his domestic life but little must be written. The record of much that is pleasant to his son to remember, would be interesting to but few besides. Both outwardly and spiritually, his was a life of unusual happiness. Death had never visited his family till sent to summon himself to his home. The partner of his temporal lot was one who, by her watchfulness and wisdom, preserved him from many an annoyance, that might have fretted his spirit and interfered with his work. His home life was, indeed, a holy life. Few ever spent more time in secret prayer, or more fully evinced that, on communion with the Lord, their happiness mainly depended. In anything connected with his temporal lot, beyond its bearing on his work, and on the welfare of his family, he took no interest whatever. Of all the animals about the manse, his favourite pony, that bore him on his Gospel errands, was the only one he could recognise as his own.
In the eldership in Killearnan during the first years of his ministry there were no "men of mark." There were a few simple-minded praying men, who could have no commanding influence over the people, though their lives did not weaken the little which they had. John Dingwall, for many years his precentor, and one of his elders, was a simple, loving being, living peaceably with all men, and walking humbly with his God. In his dottage, which extended over the last few years of his life, he read and prayed and sang, and sang and prayed and read, all day long. Every day was then a Sabbath to John, and every week a communion season. I have heard him ask a blessing five or six times before he would begin his dinner. So soon as he was reminded of his dinner being before him, he at once began to ask a blessing, forgetting that he had done so before, until, at last, it became very doubtful whether the dinner would be eaten at all.
Simon Bisset was, naturally, a very different character. As transparently honest as John, he was far from being so amiable, and had a much more vigorous intellect. Uncompromising in his opposition to all that he did not approve, he was quite as ready to confess his error when convinced that he was wrong. His minister had been the first to introduce a yearly "private communion " so called because it was specially intended for the benefit of his own congregation alone, and because, being held in winter, not many strangers could be present. Simon was quite opposed to the innovation, because it appeared to him to preclude all strangers from the privileges of the feast, and he declared that he would take nothing to do with the work. He kept his resolution till the Sabbath, but the action sermon of that day quite over came him, and, no sooner were his services required, for keeping an open passage to the table of the Lord, than he rose to take his place with tears in his eyes. The sermon was on the character of "the good Shepherd." A boy from Contin, just entering on his teens, was standing in the aisle during the former part of the service, his eyes fixed on the preacher, and an expression of earnestness, and at last of delight, on his face. Simon found him in his way as he went to clear out the passage for communicants, and was about to remove the boy, when the minister observed him. "Leave him, Simon," he said, "that may be one of the good Shepherd's lambs." The elder was in such a softened, loving mood, that, in presence of all the congregation, lie threw his arms around the child, and gently placed him on a seat. That interesting boy gave the brightest evidence after wards of his being "a lamb of the flock." He had given his heart that day to the Lord, was carried in the arms of the good Shepherd very swiftly over the wilderness way, and, within a year, he was added to the flock that is led by "the Lamb" to the "fountains of living water " above. The Sabbath service over honest Simon could not rest till he had confessed his fault to the minister. Coming to the manse, he requested an interview, during which he confessed, with tears, how greatly he had erred in opposing the private communion, acknowledged how his soul had been feasted during the day, and declared his resolution never to oppose what the Lord had so manifestly blessed.
There were others in the eldership whose men are sweet to those who knew them, but of whom nothing can be written that would be interesting to strangers, besides what may be recorded of every one who walks in the fear of the Lord.
Soon after his admission, he began to catechise m the east end of the parish, in a district which, at that time, was a colony of Episcopalians. The Episcopal clergyman himself, either not deigning, or fearing to be present, sent his most trusty man to oppose the parish minister in the event of his making any attack on the doctrines or on the practices of his Church. The champion of prelacy was present all the time, and had to listen to many things that were far from being pleasant, but he had not the courage to cause any interruption of the service. But he became bold, like many a warrior before him, just when the field day had passed, and, surcharged with revenue he waited about the door till the minister came out. Getting tongue at last, he began to abuse, in no measured terms, the minister and his doctrine. Listening quietly for a little, and then fixing one of his piercing looks on the man, the minister spoke a word to his conscience, as it was given him at the time, mounted his horse and was gone. What was spoken to his conscience had reached and had pierced it; and but few days had passed, when the champion of prelacy came to the manse, asking, "What must I do to be saved?" The wound was deepened, till the Lord's hand bound it; and from among the most unpromising of his flock, the Lord thus raised up, as a witness for the truth, the most unpromising individual of them all.
Inroads continued to be made on the colony of Episcopalians till, some won by the power of grace, and others drawn by the current of example, only a very few old people were to be found in the parish, at the period of my father's death, who crossed the threshold of the Episcopal Church.
After the peace of 1815, soldiers, who had been engaged in the Peninsular war, returned, as pensioners, to their native parishes. In general, they were no acquisition. Judging of them as they were on their return, Killearnan's share of the pensioners formed no exception to the rule. But some of them had been preserved amidst all the dangers of campaigns and battles, and brought to Killearnan, that the Lord, in his "time of love," might meet with them there.
Alexander Macdonald, "a Waterloo man," came to reside in a village quite close to the church. Addicted to drink, and pestered by a fretful wife, the poor pensioner led but a miserable life. His home was often the scene of unseemly squabbles. This state of matters continued for some time after his return from the Continent. But, at last, the day of his salvation did come. While in church, on an ordinary Sabbath, the Lord applied the doctrine of the sermon with power to his soul. He was quietly, but effectually, drawn unto Christ by the cords of His love; and he, who entered church that day in all the indifference of a hardened transgressor, left it rejoicing in the Lord. This was a case in which we might have expected a more protracted and painful preliminary work; but the Lord is sovereign, and giveth no account of His ways. The pensioner was soon missed by his former companions. Neighbours observed that a calm had settled on his once restless home. He began to attend the prayer and the fellowship meetings, and many were wondering what had befallen the pensioner. They had not heard of any process of conviction of which he had been the subject; they only knew that he was not now what he used to be before. It was with no small wonder, then, that they saw him rise, within a few months after this change, to propose a question at the fellowship meeting. Still greater became their surprise when, instead of instantly refusing, the minister most gladly accepted it, expressing, at the same time, his assurance that it was proposed under the guidance of the Lord. The pensioner had not then spoken to the minister in private, and this being known by the people, their astonishment was all the greater, because of his manner of receiving the question. But the pensioner's case had been on the minister's heart, and the Lord had led him to expect that he would yet be a witness for Himself, and had prepared him to receive him as such. That day's meeting was countenanced by the Lord, and was an occasion of gladness to minister and people.
The pensioner's life, from that day forth, was a striking evidence of the power of grace. A more temperate man there was not in all the parish. His house was a very model of cleanliness and neatness, within and without. His garden was always the neatest, the earliest, and the most productive. His wife continued the impersonation of fretfulness and discontent she ever was before, but never did she draw an angry retort from her husband. Remembering his former unkindness, there was no self- denial he would not practise, no drudgery he would not submit to, no expense he would spare, to add to the comfort of his wife. Never was wife more tenderly treated than she now was, and though an approving smile, or a grateful word, would never be given in exchange for his kindness, the pensioner never wearied in his tender attention to her wants. His was, indeed, the path of the just, and it shone "more and more unto the perfect day." His Christian course was not long, but it was bright. He had his burden, but he found it light; he had his conflict, but it was short; and, leaving behind him the fragrant memory of the righteous, he passed into his rest in heaven.
At a later period, Alexander Macleod returned to the parish. He had been in the grenadier company of his regiment, and a fine looking soldier he must have been. Above six feet in height, he carried himself so erectly, since the days of his drilling, that, when he had on the long cloak which he usually wore, he seemed gigantic in stature. He is "the long pensioner" in the memories of my boyhood, and that was the name by which he was known in the parish. He had been wounded severely during a siege, and left among the dead, when the wounded were carried to the hospital. It was when they came to bury the dead they discovered that Macleod was still breathing. When he was brought to the hospital, his case seemed so hopeless that the surgeons would bestow no attention on his wound, till more promising cases had been treated. At last he was examined, his wound was dressed, and he gradually recovered, till able to avail himself of his discharge, and to return to his native land. On the first occasion on which he called to procure the attestation of his schedule, in order to the payment of his pension, he walked up proudly to the front door of the manse, and demanded, in a most imperious tone, an audience of the minister. Being admitted to the parlour, he soon began his stories of the war, and so shocked the minister by the profusion of oaths which he mixed up with his narrative, that, after rebuking him, he was compelled to leave the room. A year had not passed when one day "the long pensioner was seen walking with a hesitating step towards the back-door of the manse, a greater contrast to his former self than he could be to almost any other. On entering, he anxiously asked the servant if the minister was at home. He was evidently in deep distress; a tremor shook his whole frame, and tears were falling fast from his eyes. His heart had been pierced by the arrow of conviction on the previous Sabbath, and he had now come in deep agony of spirit, seeking an answer to the question, "What must I do to be saved?" His convictions of sin were deep, but in the Lord s good time, "the oil of joy" was given him "for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." For a few years only did he live thereafter. He never recovered from the effects of his wound, but as his bodily vigour was yielding before the progress of disease, his soul was advancing in the knowledge of the truth. It was refreshing to those who delighted in the triumph of grace, to see that noble-looking man, now a broken hearted sinner, listening to the gospel in tears. Known and trusted as a sincere follower of the Lamb, by all the people of God in the parish, he continued to advance in knowledge and in holiness to the end of his life. One morning, while engaged in prayer, during family worship, he suddenly stopped, laid himself down on the floor, and, without a movement thereafter, he expired.
It is not often that, after three-score years and ten, a sinner is turned "from darkness unto light," and whenever this is done the riches, power, and sovereignty of grace are gloriously displayed. On this account, other interesting cases of conversion are passed over, to make room for a sample of converts from among the aged.
Alexander M'Farquhar remembered '45 quite distinctly. He had seen prince Charlie, and had heard the guns on the day of Culloden. Often did he tell, to wondering groups of listeners, his stories of those days, and filling up, from his imagination, the blanks in his memory, marvellous, indeed, were his tales of Charles and his exploits. The Prince, of M'Farquhar's tales, was a Goliath in height; his horse could be mounted by ordinary men only by means of a ladder; and never was Eastern king, glittering all over with gold and jewels, one half so splendid in his attire as he, according to M'Farquhar's description, who commanded the clans at Culloden. Only as a retailer of fabulous stories of the rebellion, and as a hardened, ignorant, worldly man, was he known, till he had passed fourscore years and ten. But then, the Lord broke down the strong intrenchments of the kingdom of darkness in that hardened sinner's soul, by the almighty power of His Spirit, and won him, as a child is won, by the beauty and the love of Christ. He had passed into his dotage then, but he had not gone beyond the efficacy of the Lord's own teaching. It was wonderful to hear that man, who had lived for ninety years "without God in the world," now describing, with a child's simplicity, his first impressions of the Saviour's love. It was through the preaching of the gospel, under which he had sat so long, a listless hearer, that the light first broke in on his long-benighted soul, and he first "tasted that the Lord is gracious." He lived, thereafter, wondering at the change he felt, and at the grace that produced it, till he went in to join the choir, who sing the praises of redeeming love in heaven. His new life was, indeed, a short one, but a light shone upon it, in which all around him saw that he was departing "from hell beneath."
Still older, was "Colin of the peats," as the school boys called him, before the light of truth dawned on his darkened soul. One of my earliest memories is the visit of old Colin to the school, with his little cart of peats. We then thought him to be a century old, and his pony's age was reckoned at almost half its owner's. Up to his hundredth year, he continued a dark earthworm, without a thought about his soul, or one care about its safety. His mind, never vigorous, was then in the weakness of a second childhood; and if there was one on earth that seemed quite beyond the reach of grace, it was old "Colin of the peats." Able yet to walk, he was regularly in Church. After a Sabbath, on which he was observed to have a wakeful, earnest expression on his deeply furrowed face, he came to his minister. "I saw a most beautiful one last Sabbath," the old man said, as he sat down in the study. " Where did you see him? he was asked. "In the sermon," was Colin's answer. "What was his appearance, Colin?" "Oh, he was fairer than the sons of men; I can t tell what he was like, for he was altogether lovely." His minister then asked, "What effect had the sight of Him on your heart?" " Oh, he quite took my heart from me," was Colin's simple and touching answer. This was all that he, then in his dotage, could tell about the change through which he passed. But, thereafter, old Colin thought and spoke of Christ, of whom he had never thought nor spoken before, and he cared now to think and speak of none and nothing else. The little exercise of intellect, now left in Colin's mind, was bathed in gospel light, and the old man's broken heart gave forth, with all the freshness of a child's affection, the savour of the love of Christ. A year of this new life was added to the century, during which he lived "without God in the world," and then he quietly "fell asleep."
More marked and evident was the conversion of old Sandy Dallas. Till he reached his seventieth year, there was not, in all the parish, a more worldly and insensate man than he. He regularly came to church, but he gave not even his ear to the gospel; for no preacher and no sermon could keep Sandy awake. Busy, late and early, with his farm-work all the week, and thinking of nothing else, Sabbath was to him a day of rest, just as he could make it a day of sleep. He chose to take his nap, in his pew in church, rather than on his bed at home, but this was all his concession to the claims of conscience. It was about six years before my father's death, that the long slumber of his soul was broken. The first indication of a change was his earnest attention to the word preached. He, who used to sleep out the whole service in church, now fixed his eye — and he had but one — on the preacher, and with rivetted attention, and in tears, seemed to drink in with eagerness all that was spoken. On leaving the house of God, he was now observed to choose a retired path, to walk in, apart from the crowd; and, though his house was only about a mile from the church, hours would pass before he reached it. The elder of his district, observing this, resolved to follow him, that he might ascertain how he employed his time by the way. He could easily conceal himself from Sandy, while only a short interval separated them. He approached him closely enough to hear his voice, as he repeated all he could remember of the sermon, and to notice that, when his memory failed him, he knelt to pray for help, to recollect what he had lost; and that, when any note particularly impressed him, he would again kneel to pray, asking now the Lord to preserve it in his memory, and to apply it effectually to his soul. This was, thereafter, his usual practice in retiring from the house of God. In course of the following year, he applied for admission to the table of the Lord, and was cordially received by both the minister and the elders. Among the many who came to look on my father's remains, after his death, was Sandy Dallas, and, of them all, there was not a more heart-stricken mourner. Grasping, convulsively, the post of the bed on which the corpse was stretched, all his sobbing voice could utter were the words, "He there, and I here!" He survived his minister a few years, during which he gave ample evidence of his affections being now "set on things above." All he now did about the farm was occasionally to herd the cattle, and even then he passed his time in reading, and in prayer and praise; others complaining that the herding was spoiled by the praying, and he himself complaining that the praying was spoiled by the herding. The freshness of his spiritual feeling waned not with his decaying intellect and strength, and, as an humble follower of the Lamb, he passed the remnant of his days on earth.
David Munro, till within two years of his death, was the most notorious drunkard in the parish. Seldom sober, and only so when he could not manage to get drink, he passed a beastly life, till he approached fourscore years of age. But all this time he was regularly in the house of God. This, and his terror of the minister, were the only evidences of his not being quite abandoned. His dread of my father had all the power of a passion. There was no effort he would not make to avoid encountering him. But an occasion occurred, in which he was under the necessity of meeting him. One of his daughters was about to be married, and her father must, of course, come "to speak to the minister," for such was the stern custom of the parish. He could not avoid meeting the minister on the marriage day, at any rate, so he resolved to come to speak to him in the manse. He came, but in such a state of fear, that it was with difficulty he could mount the stair to the study. He came out of it, after a short interview, bathed in tears. Meeting the minister s wife, he said to her, "Oh, I expected to meet a lion in the study, but I found a lamb;" and, quite overcome by the kindness he had met with, he renewed his weeping. His case had been on her heart before, and on those of other praying people, and her feeling towards him was such that she could not refrain from saying, "Would that the power of grace transformed your self, David, into a lamb." "Who knows, who knows, but it may," he said, as he hurried off. Not long after, he was laid low by sickness, and nothing would satisfy him now but a visit from the minister, whom he so dreaded to meet before. My father went to see him, and his visits were blessed to the poor drunkard. After a deep work of conviction, he was led to the only good foundation of a sinner's hope, and lived long enough to give evidence, which assured the hearts of many, who were not easily satisfied, that he was verily "a brand plucked from the fire."
Another case is linked with David's in the memories of those days, just because the convert had been a drunkard also. Returning home, on a dark night, after preaching at Dingwall, my father heard a moan by the wayside, which arrested his attention, and on dismounting, he found a poor wretch lying in the ditch, helplessly drunk, and almost strangled. Raising, he supported him, as he led his horse to a house at a little distance. There the poor man lay till he had the drunkard's wretched waking next morning. The story of his rescue was told him next day, and it so wrought upon his mind, that he resolved to go to thank the person, who had so kindly taken care of him. He could not summon courage to pay his visit till that day had passed. Arriving at the manse of Killearnan a little after midday on the Thursday of the monthly lecture, he found that the minister had gone to church, and that there was public worship there, that day. He went to the house of God, the Lord met with his soul, and he who had been the means, so lately, of extending his life on earth, was now, besides, the means of leading him into the way of life eternal.
A more interesting case than any yet given, must now be added, as the last in the sample of converts in Killearnan. Mary Macrae lived in Lochbroom, till she was more than fifty years of age. She was regarded by all her acquaintances as a witless creature that could not be trusted, as she herself used afterwards to say, "even with the washing of a pot." The little intellect she had was in a state of utter torpor, nothing moved it into activity. Any attempt to educate her was regarded as quite hopeless. Her life was indeed a cheerless waste, during her "years of ignorance." Regarded as a simpleton by her neighbours, and as a burden by her relatives, she was a stranger even to the happiness which human kindness gives; and no light or joy from heaven had yet reached her alienated soul. On a Saturday, as she sat by the fire in her bothy in Lochbroom, the idea of going to Killearnan came into her mind. Whence, or how, it came to her, she could not tell, but she found it in her mind, and she could not shake it out. She rose from her seat, threw on her cloak, and started for Killearnan. She had never been there before, although she had often heard it spoken of; the journey was long and lone some, but she kept on her way, and asking direction as she went on, she at last reached the old church of Killearnan, as the people were assembling on the Sabbath morning. Following the people, she entered the church. During the sermon, the voice of the Son of God was heard by Mary's quickened soul. She saw His beauty as no child of darkness ever saw it, and with her heart she said, before she left the church that day, " I am the Lord's."
Never, from that day till her death, did Mary return to her former home. Where she had found the Lord, there she resolved to cast her lot. But the joy of her espousals was soon rudely broken, and deep, for a season, was the agony of her soul there after. I used to know her then, as "foolish Mary," and wondered what could move my father to admit her to his study, but the time came, when I accounted it one of the highest privileges of my lot, that I could admit her to my own. By degrees, she was raised out of the depths of her sore distress. Marvellous was the minuteness with which Mary's case was dealt with by the preacher, Sabbath after Sabbath. Every fear was met, every difficulty solved, that distressed and troubled her; and she, whom "the wise and prudent" would despise, seemed the special favourite of heaven, among all the children of Zion, who were fed in Killearnan. Her mind was opened up to understand the truth, in a way quite peculiar, and she was led into a course of humble walking with her God.
Owing to the feebleness of her intellect, she could directly apprehend only a logical statement of the very simplest kind. The truth was first pictured, in an allegory, in her imagination, and then, holding the statement of it before her understanding, and its symbol beside it, she examined and compared them both; able to receive from the former, into her under standing, only what was made clear by the latter, and refusing to receive from the latter, into her heart, all that did not accord with the former. Regarding a merely imaginative as necessarily a merely carnal view of spiritual truths, one conld not but be staggered, at first, before Mary's habits of thought. But, in course of time, they would furnish to a wise observer, a very distinct delineation of the proper offices of the various mental faculties, in relation to "the things of God." Being all feeble, each required to do its utmost, in its own peculiar place, ere a truth, presented to her mind, could reach her heart. Because of this they could the more easily be seen at work, in all her mental processes. Her imagination was employed, in introducing the truth into her understanding; and this must always be its handmaid work, about "the things of God." It must not convey the truth directly to the heart; it must only help its passages thither, through the understanding. When it assumes a more lordly function, the light which it furnishes, cannot be safe, nor the feeling which it produces healthful.
Like the sickly child in a family, Mary was all the more closely and tenderly dealt with, owing to her very feebleness. Her imagination could not form the emblem required to assist her understanding; and the illustrations she employed, seemed to have been the Lord's own suggestions. She could not read, and in her feeble memory, but little Bible truth was stored. The word seemed, on that account, to have been directly given her, by her heavenly Teacher. As she could not repair to her Bible, to search for it, her daily bread for her soul came to her like the manna, always fresh from heaven, right down upon her case. Peculiarly near was thus her intercourse with God, just because of her very weakness.
Her way of telling any of her views or feelings would be quite startling to a listener, at first. It was always easier for her to give the matter as she found it in the emblem, than embodied in a formal statement. She seemed, on that account, to one who knew her not, to be telling of some dream or vision she had seen. It was only after she had told the allegory, that she could attempt to state what it was intended to illustrate. The emblem was not constructed by her to make her meaning clear to another; it was presented to her by the Lord, to make a truth clear to herself. She always felt that it was something given to her, and it was always as vivid as a scene before her eyes. She could not dispense with it, either in examining what she sought to know, or in describing what she sought to tell. Meeting a young man once, who was on the eve of license, and much cast down in prospect of the work before him, she said, "I saw you lately in a quagmire, with a fishing-rod in your hand, and you and it were sinking together, and you cried, as if you would never rise again; but I saw you again, on the banks of a broad river, and the joy of your heart was in the smile on your face, and you were returning home with your rod on your shoulder, and a basket full of fish in your hand;" and then, in broken words, she spoke of his present fears, and of the joy awaiting him in the future.
Of all I ever knew, she was the one who seemed to enjoy the greatest nearness to God in prayer. The whole case of one, whom she carried on her spirit before the throne of grace, seemed to be uncovered before her. She could follow him with the closest sympathy in his cares and sorrows, during his course through life, with no information regarding him but such as was given her in her intercourse with God. A minister to whom she was attached, having been sorely tempted during the week, and, finding no relief on Sabbath morning, resolved not to go out to church at all that day. About an hour before the time for beginning public worship, Mary arrived at his house. As she came to the door, he was seated in a room just beside it, and overheard a conversation between Mary and the person who admitted her. " "What is the matter with the minister ?" she asked. "I don't know," was the reply;" but I never saw him in greater distress." "I knew that," Mary said, "and he is tempted not to go out to church to-day; but he will go after all; the snare will be broken, and he will get on the wing in his work to-day." She then repeated a passage of Scripture, which was "a word in season" to him, who listened out of sight, and a staff to help him on his way "to the gates of Zion."
It was quite extraordinary how her mind would be led to take an interest in the cause of Christ, in places and in countries, of which she knew not even the names. Instances of this might be given so remarkable, that I cannot venture to risk my credibility by recording them. One only will be given. Coming to me once, with an anxious expression on her face, she asked, if there was any minister, in a certain district, which she could only indicate by telling that it was not far from a place of which she knew the name. I told her there was, "but why do you wish to know?" I asked. "I saw him lately," was her answer, "fixing a wing to each of his sides, and rising, on these wings, into the air, till he was very high; and then, suddenly, he fell, and was dashed to pieces on the ground;" and, she added, "I think, if there is such a minister, that he has but a borrowed godliness, and that his end is near." There was just such a minister, and his end was near, for, before a week had passed, I received the tidings of his death.
Symptoms of cancer in her breast having appeared, and medical advice having been taken, she was told that nothing could be done for her, but the removal of the affected part. She was then about sixty years of age, and it seemed to all her friends that she would be running a great risk by submitting to the operation. But Mary had asked counsel of Him, to whom she went with all her cares, and, with an assurance of recovery, she resolved to have the cancerous tumour removed. The operation was performed. A few days thereafter, she was in the burn of Ferintosh, hearing the gospel, and never suffered again, from the same cause, till her death.
Sweet to all who knew her, and who saw in her the working of the grace of God, is the memory of that simple, loving, holy woman. She is now at rest, in her Father's house; and those who loved her may not wish that she still were here; but, since she has passed from the earth, they often sadly miss the cheering streak of light, her presence used to cast across their dark and lonesome path, in this vale of tears.