« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
This year itinerancies were entered on more extensively than ever, by Messrs. J. A. Haldane, Aikman, Campbell, and Innes, who extended their tour to the Orkneys,* preaching almost
with more alarm than all the other plans and measures of the new party, because the managers had the power of rejecting any candidate who did not give evidence of both piety and ability; whereas the Kirk had to accept all who entered the Divinity Hall, and the energy and ability of Mr. Robert Haldane were known and dreaded, as certain to make these seminaries nurseries of able men, who, in the excited state of the public mind, would sweep the people out of the establishment. * A visit to one of these islands, at this time, nearly proved tragical to worthy John Campbell. The itinerants had separated, in order to cover more ground, and he had chosen this as the scene of his benevolent labors.
A singular belief, received by tradition from their fathers, prevails among these islanders, viz: that the scanty remnant of the Picts, a tribe of aboriginal pagans, who survived the exterminating war waged against them by the Caledonians, when driven from their possessions in the more southern districts of Scotland, took refuge in these islands and the neighboring mainland; and that the remarkable subterranean structures which are known to exist there, are the houses they built, and in which their descendants still live, keeping within their burrows during the day, and coming forth by night, to supply their wants, partly from the sea, using the boats and nets of the islanders, and partly by filching from the stores of these provident folks.
Now as these Picts are considered an accursed race, it is an article of the popular creed, that should one of them venture into daylight, intrude upon the company of Christians, and be caught, flagrante delicto, (for the Orcadians have an ideal of the general form and features of these marauding heathen, which enables them to detect them), it is their bounden duty to put him to death.
Now, unfortunately, honest John Campbell had just that figure of body, and those facial developments, which the popular notions had assigned to the proscribed subterraneanists. His appearance, therefore, at the inn, sent a flutter to the hearts of its intelligent inmates. Still he was supplied with supper, and shortly after went to bed; but from the instant he crossed the threshold, he had been the subject of earnest consultation among them, and his doom was sealed.
Providentially, Mr. Stevenson, Civil Engineer, who was at that time engaged on a survey of the Orkneys and the adjoining coast, came that night to the inn. As he had been of late a frequent visitor, he was well known to mine host, whose unusual gravity, together with the stillness that reigned in the house, surprised him, but he had not to wait long for an explanation; the inn-keeper came into the room, and cautiously shutting the door and speaking in a very low voice, expressed his gratification at Mr. Stevenson having come, for he needed his advice, as he and his family were in great distress. Was it sickness, or death, or misfortune? No, it was none of these, but they had a Pict in the house, and as it was considered a duty to kill him, they had been consulting all the afternoon how it should be done, and they had resolved on smothering him as he lay asleep; but he was not easy in his mind, the man appeared pleasant and kind-hearted, and he had great
daily, witnessing the tokens for good with which God owned their labors, and observing everywhere how harmlessly the pastoral admonition of the Assembly had fallen. Rowland Hill, also, itinerated, and unsparingly lashed the Moderates in his discourses, for their enmity to the cause of Christ's kingdom; describing them as fit objects for the pity and the prayers of all who loved Zion and the souls of men. The brethren who had visited the north, shortly after their return to Edinburgh, set out on a tour to the south, preaching in every available place to crowds of people, many of whom followed them to great distances. Thus the word seemed to grow mightily and prevail.
In 1801, the Tabernacle at the head of Leith Walk, Edinburgh, was finished, and the church and congregation which had heretofore assembled in the Circus, removed to it. It was the largest meeting house in the city, being seated for three thousand two hundred, and four thousand have often crowded into it.
In 1802, another Tabernacle was built by Mr. Aikman, on the south side of the city, behind the college buildings; in it a church was formed, being a colony from the mother church, under Mr. J. A. Haldane's pastoral care; its constitution and order were purely Congregational. The benefits anticipated from the seminaries began now to be realized; the students who had studied under Mr. Ewing the prescribed course of two years, were sent to those districts in which the greatest interest existed, and were eminently useful; churches began to multiply, and as all adopted the order of those in Edinburgh, the Congregational body began to assume a marked place among the other denominations. In 1803, Mr. Innes's students were
misgivings about him. Mr. Stevenson, alarmed at the danger of the unconscious stranger, requested that he might see him, and he would gladly give his counsel what should be done. Being cautioned against making a noise, as the man was sound asleep, he was piloted to the chamber where the unwelcome guest lay, and what was his astonishment when, on looking to the bed, he recognized the familiar countenance of his good friend, John Campbell, who was sleeping soundly, not even dreaming of the peril he had been in.
ready, also, for the field, and entered upon their labors with earnest activity,* while the pioneer itinerants, Messrs. James A. Haldane, Aikman, and J. Campbell continued their summer tours with unabated zeal.
Such was the course pursued; each succeeding year witnessed a deepening, consolidating interest in religious matters; the Tabernacles which dotted the country were filled to overflowing; churches were springing into being not only in cities and towns, but in rural districts; and "the word of the Lord had free course, and was glorified."
The movement, whose course we have been tracing, began, as we have seen, with the sole object of diffusing throughout the country the doctrine of the cross, the savor of the Redeemer's name, and thereby to minister to the people that instruction in saving truth, which the majority of the established pulpits did not supply. A catholic spirit animated all engaged in it; if difference of opinion in minor matters of faith or practice existed, they were put aside, in a hearty coöperation to publish "the glorious gospel of the blessed God," and if for years the moderate party in the kirk were specially assailed, it was because of the honest convictions of the preachers that they were thereby warning precious souls, who were perishing under the very ordinances of religion. It originated in no zeal for an "ism," but ministers of evangelical principles, whatever the body to which they belonged, were invited to take part in it, and bid God-speed in their labors, while devoted laymen were also hailed as valuable coadjutors.
Matters thus proceeded prosperously and harmoniously until 1805, when Mr. J. A. Haldane's unfortunate infirmity in being given to change, occasioned some difference between him and his brethren.
Mr. Ewing, with the view of drawing out the talent which
* The seminaries continued in operation, under successive tutors, until 1808, when they were discontinued. They sent out, in all, about three hundred preachers, many of whom rose to great eminence as men of piety, learning, and research, viz:-The Rev. Dr. Paterson, Dr. Russel, of Dundee; Orme, of Camberwell; Smith, of Rotherham; Knowles, of Linlithgow; Dr. Henderson, of Islington, &c.
he knew to be in his church, had adopted the plan of holding two social meetings on Tuesday and Friday evenings, weekly, for worship and mutual edification. In these he was in the habit of calling on one or other of the brethren, to lead in prayer, and on some for a short exhortation on some passage of scripture. He found the plan operate very profitably, and other ministers adopted his views, and followed the same course; but Mr. James A. Haldane, while assenting to it as calculated to be of service to the churches, contended that it should also be put in practice on the Sabbath day, for if desirable, beneficial, and scriptural in the one case, it could not be otherwise in the other. In order to make his opinions known on the subject, he published "Views of the social worship of the first churches," &c., which was widely circulated, and called forth answers which did not tend to heal the difference of opinion which had unhappily arisen, but was widened by this untimely publication. Still, though there was this dissimilarity of opinion, there was no abatement of coöperation, and no diminution of personal affection in those who took part in the controversy; for however repugnant Mr. James A. Haldane's views might be to the brethren, as tending to introduce irregularities into the services of the sanctuary on the Lord's day, his genuine piety, conscientiousness and zeal in every good word and work, with the kindly Christian spirit he ever manifested,. secured for him their unfeigned regards.
But the slight breeze which had rippled the surface of the heretofore smoothly flowing stream, swelled into a ruffling blast, when his brother took up the matter in dispute; for, strange to say, though by far the abler man of the two, he always followed, never led in those changes of opinion which both passed through; he at once embraced his brother's views, and did more, he resolved to put them in practice. Taking advantage, therefore, of a tour he had projected to the north of England, as an itinerant, in company with Mr. Ballantyne, minister of the Tabernacle in Elgin, and tutor of the third academy, when he reached Newcastle, and had obtained a pulpit, he made promiscuous exhortation to the Christian people who assembled, a part of the services of the Lord's day,
and pursued the same course in Alnwick and other places. This his brother had not as yet done; he respected the feelings of others, and would not offend them in a matter of the scriptural authority of which he was not as yet fully satisfied; but deference to the opinions or feelings of others had no place in Mr. Robert Haldane's mind; the order he had observed he thought a right one, and therefore would adhere to it, no matter what unpleasantness it might occasion, or what irritation it might provoke in his brethren.
As a matter of course, when his procedure came to be known it greatly distressed those who considered the Lord's day services of the sanctuary as the peculiar office and duty of the minister or pastor; but a criminal respect to wealth and influence, which they afterwards deeply deplored, held them back from at once taking ground against his innovation. They knew the sacrifices he had made and was still making for the cause they had at heart, and they also knew as well, that it would be no pleasant task to remonstrate with him, and a difficult, if not a hopeless one to convince him he was doing wrong, and pursuing a divisive course. In this respect he resembled the celebrated Edinburgh advocate, John Clerk, who, as he one day persisted in adhering to and arguing an untenable plea, was chid by the mild, upright Judge who presided: "O, Mr. Clerk, you really are not open to conviction," replied. "Yes, my Lord, I am open to conviction, but I never yet met with a man who could convince me." Mr. Robert Haldane could have pleaded openness to conviction in the same spirit.
While this occasion for heart-burning and vexation was yet troubling the brethren, a more grievous cause for distress and alarm arose; Mr. James A. Haldane began to waver on the subject of infant baptism. All, therefore, who were rejoicing in the prosperity of their cause throughout Scotland, and never before had it been so evident, were greatly perplexed; everything outside seemed to betoken the near approach of times when the pure gospel would be brought within every one's hearing, and the teachings of the moderate ministers would be restricted to those who succeeded to their fathers's religion