Page images
PDF
EPUB

may not only have pointed out the passage of Chaucer to the poet, but may have suggested that it should be adapted to the character of his old shipmate.

There are also, we think, among Dryden's lines some other hardly mistakeable allusions to the peculiar history of the Bishop. At all events our readers will not be sorry that we conclude with some of those beautiful couplets. Possibly, in these days, they may even be new to some of our younger friends :

A parish priest was of the pilgrim train;
An awful, reverend, and religious man.
Of sixty years he seemed, and well might last
To sixty more, but that he lived too fast:
Refined himself to soul, to curb the sense,
And made almost a sin of abstinence.
Yet had his aspect nothing of severe,
But such a face as promised him sincere;
Nothing reserved or sullen was to see,
But sweet regards and pleasing sanctity.
And oft with holy hymns he charmed their ears,
A music more melodious than the spheres :
For David left him, when he went to rest,
His lyre; and after him he

sang

the best.
The proud he tamed, the penitent he cheered;
Nor to rebuke the rich offender feared.
His preaching much, but more his practice wrought,
A living sermon of the truths he taught.

Such was the saint, who shone with every grace,
Reflecting, Moses-like, his Maker's face:
God saw his image lively was expressed,
And his own work, as in Creation, blessed ;
The Tempter saw him too with envious eye,
And, as on Job, demanded leave to try.

• He took the time when Richard was deposed,
And high and low with happy Harry closed.
This Prince, though great in arms, the priest withstood;
Near tho' he was, yet not the next in blood.
He joined not in their choice—because he knew
Worse might, and often did, from change ensue;
Much to himself he thought, but little spoke,
And, undeprived, his benefice forsook.

With what he begged his brethren he relieved,
And gave the charities himself received ;
Gave while he taught; and edified the more
Because he showed 't was easy to be poor.'

ART. III. ART. III.-1. The Church and her Accuser in the far North,

By Investigator. Glasgow, 1850. 2. Notes on the Construction of Sheepfolds. By John Ruskin,

M.A. 1851.

THEN a sect has been long seated in one country, or when

a nation has wholly or very generally adopted peculiar dogmas with the ardour of sectarianism, it is difficult to distinguish between the effects produced by the peculiar religious doctrines, and those which may result from national and local character; and this is doubly difficult where the creed and climate are congenial-where the people have embraced a faith so suited to their disposition that it would seem as if that suitableness must have been the cause of the choice.

Want of sun and want of animal spirits go naturally enough together, and it is not unnatural (as poor human nature is) that the man of dull spirits should think the lively something worse than frivolous. There is no church or sect which in so many words denounces gaiety of temper, face, and conversation, as unholy; but some religious bodies take so despairing a view of the position of man, that any show of lightheartedness is in fact considered as rash and daring profanity. According to them, this beautiful world is not given to be enjoyed. It is scarcely even a scene of trial. The dread sentence has already passed, and the immense majority are irrevocably doomed to an eternity the knowledge of which makes cheerfulness insanity. But for the other part—the minority-who are as confident of their own acceptance as of the condemnation of the multitude--how fares it with their present feelings and character? It might seem that in them we should find, not indeed absolute vulgar hilarity, but a perfect and sublime , serenity, removed far out of the reach of the petty vexations, the jealousies, and heartburnings of the world. We might expect at least forbearance, pity, charity, mercy. But shall we presume to test their sincerity by the existence of these feelings? The whole question is of course regarding an inward consciousness of a divine revelation, or afflatus. Shall we test the presence of that consciousness by each man's conduct? Shall we know it by his works? It is an easy way to dispose of such questions to say that he who does not live up to his profession is dishonest-to brand the man who boasts an individual assurance of salvation and is yet uncharitable, grasping, worldly, as a mere pretender. But he who has studied · human nature in the page of old experience, knows that in all ages there have been those who began by deceiving themselves. He will admit that the thorough spiritual cheat—the Tartuffe-is only one shape, and not the most common, in which we see profession and practice at variance.

We are told, indeed, by the spiritual anatomists of those sects that speak familiarly of the most dread names and subjects, that what is born in' on the soul touching its future state cannot be false—that the acceptance of God's elect is declared to themselves in plain language. They leave out of view the disa turbing forces. They choose to discount vanity, spiritual pride, the self-conceit of ignorance, the tricks of an over-excited imagination, the madness which prompted the mountebank Huntington to write himself S. S. (sinner saved), and which told the heavenlyminded Cowper of nothing but sure damnation.

To arrogate an exclusive favour with God is no new thing, nor confined to any country or sect. ' It is as old and universal as enthusiasm and human presumption. Always and everywhere there have been men who went up into the Temple and thanked God they were 'not as other men are.' But it is a subject which we think it useful to bring before our readers from time to time, as new pretenders spring up to monopolize all godliness, and take Heaven by storm. We feel that the Quarterly Review can do so without being suspected of sneering at genuine religion, in any shape.

That we take our modern instances from distant and obscure places—that we select our quarry from the outlying herd round the skirts of our manor—is for very obvious reasons, and God knows from no want of game nearer home. Merely premising then, that with change of names the story of superstition and spiritual pride may be told of any county from Kent to Cornwall —from the Land's End to John o' Groat's

's—we for the present cull our specimens from the far North.'

The northern division of our island has long been noted for a high-strained religious profession, and a claim of more than ordinary • seriousness; nor do any parts of Scotland exceed in this respect the Isle of Skye, or the wilder tracts of the peninsula beyond the Moray Firth. In morals and conduct and general intelligence, the natives of those countries do not differ materially from their neighbours. They are of both languages—for the peculiarity we are to notice is independent of race. It affects the Celt and the Teuton alike. The population of those two districts has been for a long time distinguished for a transcendental Calvinism, or, as they prefer to say, for ultra-evangelical tenets. There, perhaps more than elsewhere in Britain, is extant the spirit of the old Puritan, his presumptuous self-esteem, his hatred of prelacy, liturgies, Erastianism, and everything differing from

himself.

himself. Some of his better qualities are there also; and faith as strong, piety as feryent, as entire submission to the Divine will, may be found in many of those modern Highlanders, as warmed the breasts of John Bunyan and Rutherford.

Like other people of cold climate and nature, they love the excitement of long and vehement preaching, and are capable of being roused by it to a dangerous frenzy, venting itself in scenes only short of the dreadful American revivals. But like their Puritan prototypes, while thus seeking the stimulants of spiritual exercises, they profess to distrust and despise all secular learning (head knowledge is their term), however dedicated to pious uses. Ordination of any sort has no value in their eyes, and thus the clever, talking, ranting, uneducated layman who possesses the 'gift of prayer' and has Scripture phrases on his tongue, is more acceptable with them in their fellowship-meetings' than the sober ecclesiastic who would try to instruct before exciting. This religious society has another curious feature. Its individual members not only think themselves entitled to assert generally their own acceptance with the Deity ; but they measure with great minuteness their several degrees of progress in spiritual attainments; and take rank according to the indications of divine favour-according to the success of appeals to God—of struggles with the Devil; to use their own language, according to their experiences.

Each man is his own judge, and—what is more remarkable—the society in which he moves admits his judgment of himself. The self-constituted leaders of these religionists are known by the appellation of the Men,' and they distinguish themselves by a particular dress. In Skye they wear, even in church and at the administration of the sacrament, red, striped, or blue woollen night-caps—the colours marking different degrees of godliness ; in Caithness their dress is a cloak, with a peculiar handkerchief tied over the head.

For the curious in this branch of natural history, we add such particulars of the Men' as we have been able to gather by diligent inquiry from ‘sure hands.' Their habitat extends from Carrbridge, where the great Highland road plunges from the moorlands of Strathdern into the valley of the Spey, all along the north-eastern coast, quite round to Cape Wrath. Sutherland they pervade wholly. They are not so strong on the western coast of Ross as on the east side ; and are not known in Lochaber, Glengarry, Moidart, or Arisaig, unless at Kilmallie of late. On the mainland fronting Skye, and we believe among the Saxonspeaking population of that island itself, they are pretty numerous under the name of • Professors.' The cloak which the Men' wear in Caithness and Sutherland is considered apostolical; it formed part of the costume of St. Paul, who left his cloak’ at Troas. It is of dark colour; generally of camlet. They never lay it aside in the heat of summer.

formed

We have not learned the authority for their various head-gear. It would seem that from whatever colour commencing, it culminates into white. The colours, whether in spots or stripes, are, we presume, symbolical of some partial remainder of human frailty—of the stains of earth; and it is only where all traces of the world are washed out that a handkerchief of unmixed white is blazoned. Alexander Gair, a catechist of very eminent sanctity, never appears in church or meeting without a pure white napkin tied over his head, with the ends banging down.

We learn somewhat of the working of this singular society in Caithness from the very interesting and clever pamphlet of Investigator. It is understood to be the production of a most respectable clergyman of the established church of Scotland -a native of the far North,' though now beneficed in a more genial region. It is written indeed for a controversial purpose-in which we take no concern-but its facts have never been disputed; many of them we have ourselves verified; and the extracts and details which we select from it may be received with entire confidence.

Our author first introduces us to the Men' of a parish in Caithness, met in council at nine at night, to criticise the service of the Communion which had just taken place. One, a watchmaker, objected to an officiating minister who had spoken of Christ suffering a temporary hell for his people. * Temporary,' he maintained, meant trifling,' and so to speak of the Saviour's suffering was damnable doctrine. His authority was great, and the others concurred. The meeting sent a deputation to the manse, announcing their pleasure that the offending minister, who was to preach next morning, should be superseded ; or otherwise that another and more popular should be set to preach from a tent (or wooden-booth) near the church door. After long consultation and hesitation, the poor parish minister was compelled to submit, and to adopt the latter alternative. The approved orator uplifted his voice in the tent just as the bell had “rung in, and the congregation speedily rushed from the church to hear him, leaving the man of unsound doctrine, who did not know that temporary' meant trifling, to address empty pews--(pp. 19, 22).

The following passage refers to another gathering for a Communion in Caithness.

" The English attendance was large in itself, though it seemed small when compared with the vast multitude of Gaelic-speaking Celts, which

covered

« PreviousContinue »