صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

with them in it, were that in my power, or were the gifts given me; but while I see masses of individuals professing the principles of the Free Church, and not only professing our principles, but enduring, as masses in large districts and extensive tracts of our land do, dire, horrid persecution because of their principles, I think there is here somewhat of an additional claim upon the Christian Church to direct its first efforts to stretch out a helping hand on their behalf. It is not as accusing any one of my fathers and brethren of exaggeration, far from it, that I mean to do, -when I say this, that I hear much, that I have heard much, and I believe it all —of the hardships and persecutions endured by our countrymen in the Lowlands, in two distinct and separate localities; but while hearing these hardships and grievances so eloquently descanted on in this house (I blame no one but myself); but while I feel that the hardships of these two isolated congregations are great, I say that it would be but scrimp justice to the great body of destitute Highlanders, if the voice of this Church was not lifted up for them. Their persecutions are grievous, and their hardships in temporal things have been great in addition; and I do hear that the temporal hardships inflicted upon them, under God, have aggravated their sufferings; but under all these difficulties and trials I challenge any man to charge my countrymen in the Highlands and Islands with one isolated instance in defection to the faith. Sir, I do not blame the Free Church. It has done much in ministering to the wants of our countrymen who adhere with such stedfastness to the faith as it is in Jesus, but I may mention to the house that I hold in my hand a sketch supplied to me, as a member of the Home Mission Committee, showing certain results, from which I find that the vacant stations in the Highlands and Islands number somewhat about forty, that is rather vacant congregations, sanctioned charges, where the people are supplied with no stated ordinances except by the partial efforts made to supply catechists to them; and, notwithstanding all the hardships, temporal and spiritual, to which they are subjected, I find, by the same document, that while the return in the shape of aid to the Committee in its labour, averages about £48 from the Lowland stations, the contributions coming from the Highland stations is £35. I think this does honour to my countrymen; and I know that it is from the very depths of their penury that these contributions flow,-that they are the result of the accumulation of the very mites of the poorest, which they throw into the treasury of the Lord; and there is one very remarkable thing to be noticed, that in the Highlands there is the utmost confidence in the Free Church, notwithstanding how far the Free Church has been hitherto from ministering to their wants. Their trust is in the Free Church, their faces are towards the Free Church, and they are waiting anxiously in the hope that the ability and power of the Free Church will increase, and that they will receive the benefits of the increase. They are waiting with patience, and I do trust, while it is not my part to go into any matter of detail this evening, and at this hour, that this Church, looking to the principles which I have been endeavouring to bring before it, will see the necessity of beginning with helping, and comforting, and building up, and edifying, in the first instance, our own adherents, and that she will take heed that no arrangement sanctioning any details will be entered into which will go to shorten or curtail the means of rendering help, in preference to the mass in general in our Highlands and Islands. It would ill become me to profess myself an evangelist. I wish I could supply the labours that are necessary for that flock over which the Lord has set me, unworthy as I am; but I think it would be justice to my countrymen in the Highlands and Islands to state,-and far be it from me to state it in a spirit of boasting, -that I have been endeavouring humbly to labour in the Highlands and Islands. In the winter and spring of last year I spent upwards of four months in that labour, visiting congregations and stations, attending my worldly business in a measure, but endeavouring at the same time not to forget my character as an ambassador of Christ. During these four months I preached every day, not once, but twice, and sometimes three times; and I may here remark, that, while I am accused of preaching long by more fashionable hearers on these occasions, the only regret of my audiences was when I concluded my address. Sir, I remark a distinction between our habits and those of our more highly favoured Lowlanders, of which I had an illustration. I had the privilege and happiness of presiding at the administration of the Lord's Supper to the Highlanders of one congregation in April last,— -a congrega

tion of 6000, some said 7000, persons,--and hundreds of these having come to be present, and to be sharers in that ordinance, some twenty-five, and some thirty miles, on one of the coldest April days, and amidst one of the bitterest snow showers. The service beginning at eleven o'clock, I was able to continue that service till seven o'clock in the evening, when I retired from the services, and dismissed the congregation, rather fatigued-(laughter)-fatigued and weary,-not weary of the service, though weary in it. I then thought the service was over, but to my astonishment I learned in the vessel in which I sailed next morning, that after my departure the congregational services were continued till past twelve o'clock at night. Now, it is not for any ostentatious display that I would make use of this instance, but to show that the hungering and thirsting after righteousness which prevails throughout the whole Highlands and Islands is very great, and the territory well worthy of your attention. I hope that the ministers of the Free Church will take a look at the extent of the territory, so as to appreciate the wide field which is there open for cultivation. The same thing that I speak of was illustrated in a similar way in the island of Lewis, where God has done much, as He has done in times past. These, as well as other instances I have in view, are illustrations of the out-goings of the whole population of the Free Church, and its services. I regret that the arrangements for the services of this year—for which I do not blame the Committee or its Convener-have not sooner been made. The arrangements for visiting the Highlands during the spring, and summer, and autumn, should have been made months ago; for I fear that the hearts of thousands will sicken from delay, on account of some of our fathers and brethren not having gone farther and done more to minister to their wants. I will give one illustration of this, and no more. We have been enabled to send deputies to the Highlands and Islands (and, with all deference to the Convener of the Foreign Mission Committee, I think that the Highlands and Islands of Scotland have a preferable claim over the Highlanders in America), and, in the course of my tour, I inquired in one place at a woman, if a minister of the Free Church had not been present here last year, when I was informed that there had, and that he preached in a tent made up with a few sticks and a blanket,— "Yes," said she, "there was one here; and many is the day that I have gone since to recollect myself of what he was telling us, by standing in the place where the soles of his feet stood." The Word, I believe, had been blessed to her soul; and I believe that there are many of our fathers and brethren who have gone out upon these important and much-needed services, who could mention instances much more affecting than this I have related. The descriptions may be short, and inadequate to convey a full view of the reality; but the heart would indeed be a heart of stone that would not feel for them. The Convener, in his Report, has mentioned one instance of the liberality of an illustrious lady, the Countess of Effingham (applause), who gives a salary to one probationer in the island of Harris; and while delicacy must prevent me going into details here, I may be permitted, without much breach of delicacy, to say, that this is but a mite indeed to the bounty and benevolence of that lady for the Highlands, independent of what she has done for the Lowlands. (Hear, hear.) I may here mention, that there is an association of young men in connection with the congregation of the Rev. Dr Smith of Glasgow, who raise annually the salary of a probationer for the Island of Eigg, where Popery prevails. I mention this in order to quicken the young men of other congregations to similar efforts. Other objects, in which there may be more sentiment, and more of imagination exercised, may be presented to their attention; but I am quite sure that, as compared to religious destitution in Ireland, or in our Colonial stations, there are stations in the Highlands and Islands deserving as much, if not more, of help and commiseration. Our Convener has mentioned the case of the Island of St Kilda, to which, by the liberality of a lady, a catechist has been sent; and I may mention that another lady of my own congregation has contributed the sum of £15 for a similar purpose; and since the meeting of this Assembly another lady has agreed to subscribe £25 towards the expenses of the Breadalbane schooner, in order to facilitate the transmission of gospel ministration to the Highlands and Islands. These are encouraging facts, and I trust they will not be lost upon this house; but whatever deliverance may be come to on this Report (an able and faithful Report, so far as it could be made, taking a look of sɔ large and discursive a field), I hope this

Assembly will take a view of the masses of the Highlands and Islands in preference to the masses in the Lowlands of Scotland. It is not, however, by depreciating the one object that I would desire to exalt the other; but I would say respectfully to our Lowland brethren, that when they are ready to go out to excavate the uninstructed and the destitute, the Highlands is worthy of their first attention. From our Lowland brethren not knowing the character of the population, the extent of the districts, and the wants of the people, they are not, perhaps, fully alive to the importance of the claims I am setting before this house; but I would ask that some of them should undertake the labour to go forth and visit the Highlands and Islands, see their condition, and then report whether Highlanders can be regarded as guilty of partiality in setting before the house and the country, as I do, the claims which my countrymen have upon this Assembly. (Hear, hear.)


Dr CANDLISH said,—The Report of the Gaelic Committee, which he had now to submit to the Assembly, came very appropriately after the statement just made by Dr Mackay; and in regard to that oral statement, he (Dr Candlish) had only to say, that he hoped Dr Mackay would give more of such statements than he was in the habit of doing. Dr Candlish then read the Report of the Gaelic Committee, which was as follows:

"It is with deep regret we have to report to this Assembly that the painful circumstances which gave rise to the appointment of a distinct Committee for the Highlands and Islands continue in all their intensity. Last year we had occasion to show, that while an overwhelming majority of the inhabitants of these districts were warmly attached to our principles, and had cast in their lot with our Church, unfortunately we were utterly unable to make such provision for their spiritual wants as could be deemed in any measure satisfactory. Since then, the change is small indeed. Within the last few weeks two vacancies have been filled up in the Presbytery of Abernethy. The other Presbyteries continue in their former state, Lochcarron and Mull having two ministers, and Skye and Uist one each. Our adherents are still increasing, so that the destitution of the means of grace is quite appalling.

"Rather than expatiate over the field of superintendence assigned to the Gaelic Committee, perhaps a better idea of the state of matters may be formed by fixing our view on one district. We shall take Mull. Several clergymen visited it last season. From the reports furnished by them, we shall endeavour to give some connected view of the spiritual condition of this island. The population is about 10,000. The island has been long sunk in spiritual ignorance and indifference. None of its ministers, and few of its people, joined the Free Church at the Disruption. With regard to the latter, the case is not so now.

"In the district of Mull which I visited, three-fourths of the people adhere to the Free Church, and if they got continuous and efficient ministrations, nineteen-twentieths of them would do so. The people now thirst for the Word of Life, their earnest and constant cry being, 'Come over and help us.' While in the island, I generally preached three times every Sabbath, and as often on week days and nights as the people could attend ; and so eager were they to hear, that some came over hills and arms of the sea a distance of ten or fifteen miles. For some weeks after entering on my labours, the deadness evinced was rather discouraging; but after being for two months among them, the impression, outwardly at least, was very considerable. Instances could be specified where the whole congregation was bathed in tears, and the cry on the day of Pentecost seemed to be that of many. On this subject I feel it delicate to enter. The day will declare the result. The great proportion of the people connected with the Establishment very rarely visit church. Whether from curiosity, or that their consciences testify to the truth of the gospel as preached by ministers of the Free Church, many come to hear these ministers, who very seldom hear sermon otherwise. Such persons will then live and die practical strangers to the truth as it is in Jesus, if you do not supply Mull with the preaching of the gospel. At Torosay, the most sorely tried congregation in the island, our cause is gaining ground in the face of all opposition. A gravel-pit within high water mark is the only place in that parish they have yet permission to meet


in. Hearts, however, have been warmed by the love of Christ in the cold gravelpit, which now acknowledge Him as their only Lord, and members of this congregation of Torosay are persons of whom the world is not worthy. In another district, the Established minister has two preaching places, at one of which the attendance has now dwindled down to ten or twelve, and of late he has been less frequent here, so that in this case, as in others, unless the Free Church is enabled to provide the ordinances of religion, the people will perish for lack of knowledge.'

"We shall give one extract more.

"Besides Tobermory, where we have a minister, the only one in the island, we have already got churches erected at Kilfinichen, Kilmore, and Saline, and we have got a site at Ulva,-Torosay being the only place where we have no site; but unfortunately we have not got even a catechist settled in any of these stations, and there is not a probationer in the whole island. The people generally were formerly steeped in poverty, the late calamity has much aggravated their state, and their spirits are altogether so crushed, that, viewing their circumstances, they have no immediate prospect of obtaining a minister for themselves. What ought the Church to do in the case? It is its duty prayerfully to inquire what should be done to provide regular and permanent gospel ministrations for districts so long and so fearfully neglected.'

"Communications similar to these have been received from various parts of the country, but the above will suffice to give some general idea of the state of matters. We shall now proceed to give a very brief view of our operations since our last Report was given in.

"Deputations.-During last year, eighty-three ministers have visited destitute localities. A few of these, in terms of the appointment of last Assembly, gave three months' service, and the remainder generally five or six weeks. The congregations to which these services were given, stand thus :- Vacant charges, 15; Sanctioned charges, 14; Regular stations, 36; Localities in which no Associations are as yet formed, 14;-In all, 79. And these spread over the counties of Argyle, Perth, Inverness, Ross, Sutherland, and Caithness.

[ocr errors]

"Catechists.It is known that the supply of Gaelic Probationers is still so limited that the Church is under the necessity, in many cases, of employing catechists in lieu of them. Including those dismissed by the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge,' there are at present fifty-five Gaelic catechists in commission. Every effort has been made to render their services as extensively useful as possible; and we have reason to believe that they have been eminently useful and highly prized in the different districts to which they have been allocated. "Breadalbane Yacht.-During last year, the Breadalbane,' as in previous seasons, was employed in carrying our deputations to the remote districts, and those lying out of the line of ordinary communication, and in visiting the outer islands. The benefits resulting to the Church from having the command of this vessel to convey her ministers to any point whereto she deems it expedient to send them, must be obvious.

[ocr errors]

"Special Deputations.-The last General Assembly, on account of the pressure of temporal want under which the population of several parts of the Highlands and Islands laboured, and the well-known effects which temporal sufferings must necessarily have in weakening the impressions of spiritual things, appointed several ministers to visit these parts, with the view to keep the people awake to their spiritual wants, and also to encourage those who, in the face of so many trials, have maintained such faithful adherence to their principles, and to demonstrate to them the lively interest which the Church takes in their welfare, by thus sending forth to minister to their spiritual wants, and to know their state, brethren who would, in faithfulness and kindness, exhort them to patience and meekness under the Lord's chastenings, and inquire into their present condition, that the spirit of brotherly sympathy might be the more stirred up in their behalf throughout the Church at large.

"The deputations accordingly set out,—the one taking the Island of Skye, and the other the Outer Hebrides.

"The deputation to Skye consisted of Mr Gibson of Glasgow, and Mr M'Kay, Kilmun; and we shall give a few extracts from the Report furnished by them.

"A Free Church minister had not visited Sleat for nine months, and the Com munion has not been dispensed there since the Disruption. We preached on the Sabbath in two different places, the congregations on both occasions being large. To show the anxiety of the people to hear the Word, one servant girl came a distance of twelve miles, waited the evening service, and then walked home that night. One of the witnesses before the Committee on Sites mentions that he dismissed this girl from his service for her attachment to Free Church principles. It is not likely that persons of such energy of character can be driven from their principles by such treatment. The elders stated that the people, notwithstanding all that they suffered, continued stedfast. It is to be hoped that, by the blessing of God, something effectual may be done to provide against the grievous destitution of the means of grace to this interesting and oppressed people, so greatly in need, even for the present life, of the consolations of the gospel, and suffering so much for their attachment to it. We preached in different parts of the district on week-days, the attendance being always good, though the weather was extremely unfavourable, and the notices short. One thing struck us, on leaving a place where we had been preaching, we found the people who had quitted their labour of road-making during the time of sermon, again at work in the evening to make up to their employers for the time they had been absent. It were long before we could find such examples in other parts of the country.'

"We shall give one other extract on this head in reference to the most spiritually dead parish in Skye,-Strath. 'We spent a Sabbath here. The parish minister had taken the opportunity of removing from our neighbourhood, and he went to another part of the parish. There was a large assemblage of people. They were evidently much impressed. Could the people of this district be similarly visited from time to time, we doubt not that, by the blessing of God, even here, a pure and efficient dispensation of the ordinances of Christ would come to be highly valued; altogether, we had much satisfaction in our public labours.'

"Mr Gibson continues, I have seen the worst part of the Papist countries on the Continent. I have seen the worst parts of Ireland, and am constrained to say, and I say it with much reluctance, I have seen nothing in point of physical suffering to surpass what I have seen in our own Isle of Skye,-I have seen nothing to equal it. I am aware that this is a year of universal suffering; but a year of famine could not have reduced comfortable cottages to turf or dry stone huts, with wet mud floors in the month of August; with three or four holes in the roof through which a man might easily pass; with not a vestige of chair or table, or furniture of any kind. I found these differences between the Popish and Highland sufferers. The latter in stead of rushing out to waylay you for charity, shrink ashamed within the door of their hut; instead of hunting you in relays along the wayside, clamouring for charity for the love of God, they will travel miles to direct and assist you; instead of prac tising all manner of falsehood and outrageous imposition, they will refuse the remuneration to which they are entitled for their toil. I am speaking of what I experienced. There is verily a fault somewhere in this state of things. I do not, and cannot believe that these poor people, with the many noble qualities they possess, are essentially and viciously indolent. But they have no motive to exertion, -no manufactures,-no trade,-no training to industrial arts,--and little or no land to dig.

"That circumstances may have, to a certain extent, induced indolence, I do not deny. But they who make this charge must be prepared to show that they have offered or pointed out employment and reward for it. This has not been done to any appreciable extent. The people are forced down in crowds to the rocky shores, and the best and cleared to make way for sheep and cattle, and they have no means for prosecuting successful fishing.

"I trust our Church will not relax in her efforts to seek the 'good' of this portion of our Jerusalem. This poor, afflicted, and oppressed people have a special claim on the Free Church. They have suffered much for her sake; and if the system of oppression and persecution under which they are made to groan is not checked, the Free Church, in all human probability, will be rooted out of these regions altogether at no distant day.'”

Dr CANDLISH, after reading the Report, said he had now to make a short ex

« السابقةمتابعة »