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covered a large space of what was called the hill of Latheron, where the whole of the services of the sacramental Sabbath, including the dispensation of the elements, took place under the open canopy of heaven. From what I have been told, I am inclined to believe that this was emphatically the occasion, as it was styled, not for Latheron merely, but for a very wide district of the North.'—p. 22.
The service began about half-past eleven. The preacher was very popular. The initiatory or action sermon,' delivered from a tent, lasted two hours and a half. To this succeeded an hour of ' fencing the tables,' wound up with awful threats against unworthy communicants.
'The effect speedily became manifest. Not an individual approached the table, which had been empty during the whole of the preliminary exercises. A few verses were sung, and a short address of some ten or fifteen minutes was uttered, in which the communicants were invited to come forward, but were at the same time given to understand that they had much better stay away. Another psalm followed, with the same result as before. Then came a fresh address, like the former one, to which there succeeded a little more singing; and so on, till it was long past four o'clock in the afternoon, and yet no one had taken his seat at the first table !-At last a commotion might be discerned in one part of the crowd. It was soon discovered to have its origin in the very slow, and indeed scarcely perceptible progress towards the communion-table of two or three of the Men, habited in their universally-recognised uniform of a camlet cloak and a spotted cotton pocket-handkerchief tied over the head. Onward they came, with half-closed eyes, and faces bent towards the ground. Their footsteps were tracked by male and female votaries, and the table was full. From that time till the termination of the service, about half-past eight o'clock in the evening, all went on quietly. The number of the table services seldom exceeded three or four, as not a tithe of the congregation ever dreamt of communicating. Last of all came the concluding address. The people dispersed—not to retire to their own homes for the night, but to take a little (occasionally, in truth, not a little) refreshment, before repairing to a meeting presided over by the Men, in which the proceedings of the day were discussed till long past midnight.'—p. 24.
Another authority, perfectly well informed, tells us,
• The most remarkable feature in the proceedings of the Men is the meeting on Sabbath evening after the service in church is done. At those meetings great numbers of people congregate, young and old, male and female. The prayers and addresses are of an extraordinary and highly exciting kind, and are prolonged far into morning. It is too well known that much immorality is the consequence of such stimulants. Not a few young people of both sexes, of light and thoughtless character, frequent those meetings for no good purpose ; and the scenes exhibited are frequently exceedingly derogatory to religion.'
For the relation established between the pastor and the flock, take Investigator's description of one of the days of preparation for the Communion.
• The grand day of a communion week in a Highland parish was neither the Sabbath, nor the Fast-day, nor the Saturday, nor the Monday, but the day of the Men—the Friday. And I know few things so well calculated to enable a Lowlander to understand the true state of the Church in the northern counties during the Ten Years' Conflict,* and the preceding half century, as a short and simple detail of the incidents of a Communion Friday in the parish of Latheron, to which, as I have hinted, the people of most of the other Gaelic parishes looked, as, in respect of Sacramental proceedings, the model of all that was good.
• Permit me, then, to describe to you a scene which was of very frequent occurrence on the hill of Latheron, at the noon of the Friday preceding the Summer Communion. There is an assembly of some thousands of Highlanders seated in front of the large wooden erection which is called the preaching tent. You remark, in the distance, travelling towards the place of meeting, three ministers, who are engaged in earnest conversation. If you were to join their party, you would hear A say to B:—“Now, as you are to preside to-day, I hope you will make a point of not asking X to speak, for he has not been in any church since the last Communion which he attended, and that is about six months ago ; I know he is to be at the meeting this forenoon, in order that he may have an opportunity of denouncing myself and my neighbour, as he did this time last year.” “Well, as to him ”—(you would find C exclaim)—" I don't mind so much, because I believe him to be a pious man upon the whole, though he never goes to church ; but Y is to be there, whom I trust you will not think of inviting, as he is getting quite notorious for love to the bottle, and our Session had almost been compelled to inquire into his character in consequence of some dreadful stories that were abroad as to his licentious conduct; but we contrived to avoid pushing on the investigation, as we knew that all the pious people had such a warm regard for him that our taking up the case would have been almost universally ascribed to a desire of exposing the failings of the saints.” “Ah!” Mr. B. would reply, “don't speak in that way, or I shall have no leeberty at the meeting ; they are both men of great experience, and are of such tender consciences that, though they regularly appear at all the communion times, they have not gone to the table for several years; we have no communicants who can equal them in utterance, and, if I preside, I cannot but call upon them, so one of you had better take my place." "No, no," A and C would instantaneously respond, “you must have your usual post, the people all expect it, and now that we have told you our opinions, you must act for yourself." The conversation having ceased as the speakers approached the tent, you
* This means the long struggle about Patronage, which ended in the disruption of 1843—the great schism of the Free Kirk.
any case of
would see them enter, and B would commence the services with a few verses of a psalm, and a prayer in which there were many marked peti. tions that there might be great leeberty that day, and that no one might be prevented by the fear of man from speaking what he felt. At the conclusion of the prayer, he would address a few sentences to the congregated multitudes, and would beg that if any of them had conscience which he would like resolved, it should now be stated to the meeting, when some brother would endeavour to remove his difficulty, This request would bring up a person of very sombre aspect, in a distant part of the crowd, who would say that he had been much troubled to discover the marks of grace. The presiding minister, our friend B, would highly commend this question ; would express his persuasion that there were only two or three there that ought to venture to speak to it, and would call upon a man sitting in front of the tent to give his opinion. He, instead of rising, would hide his face in his hands, and bow down his head towards the ground, exhibiting increased symptoms of unwillingness to speak, at each repetition of the request that he would let them have his mind. At length he would be abandoned to silence, and the same process, with the same result, would be gone through in the cases of two or three others. “ Ah!" my dear friends," B would exclaim, see how humble some poor creatures are when asked to speak at a meeting; there is many a carnal professor would give me half-a-crown if I would ask him !” It would seem to you that there was to be no lay oratory—but you would soon discover the contrary. B would look towards a person in the costume of The Men, and would beg of your acquaintance X to give the people his mind. Amidst the breathless silence and intense anxiety of the multitude, X would rise and declare that a word had been sent to him which he could not but speak, and it was, that whatever might be the marks of grace, none were to be found “in those big parish ministers”—(B was not a parish minister, but A and C were) — who fed themselves and not the flock—those idle shepherds into whose flock the true sheep would not enter”—(he himself held a meeting in opposition to his parish minister, during the hours of public worship, every Sabbath, and many of his hearers were now around)—“those carnal worldlings, who, unlike the Apostles, wore boots”—(deep groans from the old women)—and travelled in gigs !" (expressions of horror in every part of the meeting, all eyes being directed towards the tent in which A and C were seated). As soon as X had finished, B would invite Y to speak to the question, and you would see before
another of The Men, with a countenance on which sensuality and fanaticism had alike imprinted their broadest marks. He would begin by pointing to B (with whom he was exceedingly intimate), and protesting that “but for Jehoshaphat they should not have seen his face that day !-- As for the marks of grace, many ministers nowadays did not know what grace was—it was all dry, hard morality with them-and they would cast out, if they could, a true child of God, and lay false accusations at his door, because he was a witness against their legal preaching. Oye devils !"-(at the full pitch of his voice)-"ye cannot make me silent; I will lift a testimony against you
in this meeting, and will warn the simple lest they fall into your snares.” Loud and long was the declamation which followed ; and when it was concluded, B would sum up what had been spoken in a lengthened address, which was much more gratifying to The Men than to the ministers; and after prayers had been offered up by various persons in the congregation, who did not fail to drive home the nails entered by X and Y, the multitude dispersed, animated by a joy to which A and C alone were strangers.'— p. 26.
To this the author appends a note showing how now, as of old, the leaders of the Congregation vent their coarsest insults in that which they impiously call the prayer. I have heard," he says, 'of a case in which a minister was compelled to listen to a petition by one of his hearers at a congregational meeting, praying that it might be revealed to the people for which of their sins God had allowed him to be their pastor' (p. 29).
It is not at church only that the Men' exhibit their costume and their solemn visages. In their peculiar garb they wander about among the country-people, repaying their entertainment by praying and expounding after their own manner-free from 'head learning. But the chief scenes of their activity and glory are the “fellowship meetings,' where crowds are drawn together, professing to compare their experiences.' These are the great schools for extempore preaching, praying, and prophesying ; and, as they love to call it, speaking to the question.' Scripture language is applied to common things in most grotesque fashion, which does not to them seem either ridiculous or blasphemous. The great object is excitement. Whatever other effects they produce, these fellowship meetings are abundantly productive of spiritual pride.
The following paragraph gives us Investigator's view of the origin of the state of things we have been illustrating. Shrewd as he is, it will be pretty evident that he sees but half the cause :
• The Men, I believe, are indebted for the commencement of their dynasty to that deficiency of pastoral superintendence which, till a very recent date, was universally admitted to exist in the Highlands, —to the long-continued dearness of the Gaelic Bible--and to the ignorance of the uneducated Highlanders. It was but little instruction that the minister of a Northern parish could supply to his parishioners, when they were living at a distance of ten or twelve miles from his church, and were scattered over a tract of country which, in the south, would have comprehended the greater part of a whole Presbytery. Hence arose the demand for catechists, to supplement, as it was pretended, the acknowledged lack of spiritual guides to the people. Persons were appointed to this office, and were commissioned to hold meetings for prayer and the reading of the Scriptures in those hamlets which were so far removed from the parish church as to render it impossible for their inhabitants to wait upon the services of the sanctuary.
The book which was handed to these individuals as the Bible was not the Gaelic but the English version; the former work being much more expensive than the latter, and Highlanders in the humbler ranks of life being unable to read in their native language. The catechists speedily discovered that their readings were vastly more relished by the imaginative and superstitious Celts when a few grains of enthusiasm and extravagance were added to what seemed to them the cold and constrained * letter of the Word.” Accordingly, in translating from the English version which they held in their hands, they gradually deviated farther and farther from the literal meaning of the Scriptural expressions, till at length they might be said to " teach for doctrines the commandments of men;" since, instead of giving the Gaelic equivalents to the terms in the English Bible, they read out to their hearers, as the Word of the Lord, what was the concoction of their own wild and wayward fancy. In thus acting, they were safe from detection by the people, for they could not read for themselves, and knew nothing of the Scriptures except what they learned from their catechists.—The transition was easy from reading and praying to expounding in public, and it was unscrupulously made. The catechists became lay preachers, and had regular meetings for the display of their oratorical powers at the ordinary hours for Divine service. Abandoning all those restraints which information and intelligence impose upon expounders of Scripture, they indulged in fantastic declamation, which charmed the semi-savage peasantry of the North, and made them crowd to their meetings, instead of attending at the parish churches. The consequences were what might have been anticipated. The catechists increased in number and importance. Some assumed the office from a regard to the respect and renown, and even reverence, with which its possessors were rewarded by the people. Others took it up with a view to the temporal profit which it secured in the shape of gifts of various kinds. Not a few became catechists that they might escape being craftsmen. And cases were of frequent occurrence, in which there could be no doubt that the motive was the same with that which prompts licentious hypocrites to go forth after their prey, clad in a long and closely-drawn cloak of seeming sanctity. The ministers were alarmed by all this, and offered some show of resistance. They were instantly calumniated as heterodox, ungodly, &c. &c.'-p. 30.
Our author is naturally indignant at the state of thraldom under which his brethren of the ministry, as well as their flocks, were reduced by those self-elected teachers; but we think his indignation carries him too far. He may justly call The Men ignorant -presumptuous—spiritual tyrants—even artful fanatics' (p. 82); but when he brands them as a body, as 'liars' (p. 32), sneers at the want of 'veracity, sobriety, and chastity of The Men in general' (p. 59); speaks of the besetting sin of impurity, in which many of them are known to wallow' (p. 32), and their