Literary Tours in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland
The following is from Literary Tours in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland by D. T. Holmes, B.A.:
In a small country township, all the influences that operate to divide men into sects and parties are keenly and continuously felt. To a dweller there, it is well-nigh impossible to keep out of the arena of strife. Now that there is so much confusion and division in religious matters, strong feeling is more easily stirred on any secular subject that may happen to arise for discussion. If the Wee Frees, for example, desire a new road in a certain direction, the United Frees will probably deride the scheme and unanimously petition against it. Their antipathy to each other becomes envenomed by their persistent proximity: if you are a villager, you cannot get away from your adversary--in the morning, when looking out of the window, you see him tilling his croft, mending his nets, or washing his face in a tub at his front door. The fact that he is there is an obstacle to your peace of mind. If you did not see him so often, you would more readily come to believe that he possessed a conscience and some shred of principle and decent doctrine.
In a distant seaside town a library had been procured, and (though doctrine was not at stake at all) a most virulent debate at once arose as to where it should be housed. The United Frees voted for the school; the Wee Frees called aloud for the post-office. It would require the pen of Dean Swift (who did such justice to the strife between the Big-Endians and Little-Endians) to recount in appropriate style the intrigues and stratagems of the rival religionists. The local teacher did not wish the books in school because the proposal came from the enemy. He was powerfully supported by all the young fellows of the place, whose reverence for him, born of recent severe whackings, was limitless. This teacher had an eloquent and vitriolic tongue, and delivered himself thus: "What have I not done for the island? What have these reprobates ever done? Who was it that got the frequent Macbrayne connection with the mainland? I did. Who got up the concert to buy seats for visitors coming north from Glasgow? And yet for every blessing I give them, I get ten curses. But I'll choke them yet." It was needless for the United Frees to demand a plebiscite--or, as they called it, a ple-biscuit--the dominie was too forceful, persistent, and phraseful for them, and at the public meeting he laughed down a teetotal opponent by singing out: "Sit down on your seat, man; it's the drink that's speaking, no' you!"
No matter what the subject may be, there is usually a smack of ecclesiasticism in the ordinary give-and-take of conversation. I cannot illustrate this better than by giving the Lewis man's reply to an enquiry as to how his wooden leg was behaving. The enquirer was a newly-elected United Free elder, while he of the timber toes was a staunch Disruptionist. "Well," said the latter, "my wooden leg is not unlike a U. F. elder; it's not exactly perfection, but, considering everything, we must just be putting up with what we can get." This was said at a time when the Wee Frees were in a big majority in certain parts of the Highlands, and when, as a consequence, United Free elders had to be selected out of diminished congregations.
The venerable Lord Halsbury, so well known for his judgment in the great Church case, resided, shortly after the decision, in the neighbourhood of Forres. Men plucked each other by the sleeve as he passed along the street, and pointed with awe to the keen-witted lawyer who had caused such a kick-up in the realm. His most innocent doings were watched. One day he went into a book-shop and made a purchase. When he came out, in rushed a brace of theologians to enquire what he had bought. It turned out that he had purchased a copy of Comic Cuts. The news was all round Forres in an hour's time, and caused much consternation. "What great men do, the less will prattle of," and it is so difficult for the former to act up to their heroic rôle.
How thoroughly our dear native land has enjoyed its theological battles! Will there ever be a truce to the long wars of faith? One cannot see much ground for a too sanguine hope. After a library had been given to a little village in the West, I paid the usual visit to the place, and requested a free expression of views as to the suitability of the books that had been given. One venerable old native, with eyes of fire, called out: "This Paisley Library has one fatal lack: it contains no works on controversial divinity." I ventured to hint that perhaps the omission was intentional, but that he absolutely refused to believe.
Coming through the Sound of Mull one blustery November day, I heard a most animated discussion on the question "Has the Deity unlimited Free Will?" The disputants had all the appearance of sensible crofters--they certainly talked more intelligibly than most commentators on Kant. Some of the ship's crew joined in the talk in such a way as to show that they understood perfectly well the question at issue. Every member of the ring was wet (the rain was coming down in torrents during the whole argument), but neither "Ayes" nor "Noes" would admit defeat. When the boat touched the terminus of Tobermory, much still remained to be said, and the amateur theologians retired to sum up in a local bar-room. The incident is characteristic, and could have happened in no other country but Scotland. Presbyterianism has made the Scot somewhat too disputatious, but it is surely better to see a man interested in religion than in nothing at all.
Talking of the union of the Free and U.P. Churches, I am reminded of a laughable tale told of a Hebridean minister. "Themselves and their Union, I say, themselves and their Union," he remarked; "I will have nothing to do with it. I was born Free, ordained Free; I have lived Free, and I will die Free." "But what about the stipend, Angus?" said his wife, douce and cautious woman. "Ah, the stipend! Well, if I lose my stipend, you will have to put on a short petticoat, strap a creel on your back, and sell fush." "And what will you do, Angus, when I'm away selling fush?" "Oh, I will stay at home and pray for a blessing on your efforts."
The use of Scriptural expressions undoubtedly gives great force to the language of every-day life. As is well known, certain classes in cookery have recently been established in a few northern villages. A Highland minister, in publicly commending these classes, remarked, with a rueful grimace: "I do wish such classes as these had been in existence when my wife was young; for, as it is, every dinner she serves up to me is either a burnt offering or a bloody sacrifice!"
The following story comes from a minister in the neighbourhood of Loch Awe. "A clergyman of my acquaintance was stationed in a poor parish near my own, and he called on the local laird for financial aid to help on some of the church schemes. This laird was a well-known philanthropist, but the call was made at the wrong psychological moment, for he chanced on this particular day to be in a very bad humour. He listened to the minister with great impatience, and at last, bounding to his feet and pointing to the door, he shouted: 'Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have, give I unto thee: in the name of Beelzebub, rise and walk!'"
It was my unfortunate experience to witness a great amount of sectarian strife in the north and west during my various visits. Sometimes my prospective chairman was unable to preside, owing to his having taken part in a doctrinal scuffle, and having his coat torn, and his church captured. These fantastic doings are in no way edifying, and are extremely shocking to our national pride.
Theologically, many districts of the Highlands have not advanced beyond the stage occupied by Lowland Scotland in the time of Burns. In certain parishes, the communion is dispensed in the open air, in the way familiar to readers of the "Holy Fair." Sky overhead, grassy turf beneath, solemnity, sobs, and sighs all around, certainly make up a most impressive whole. The sermon is unmercifully long--two hours, at least: probably, if translated into English, and shorn of repetitions, it could be given in one-fourth of the time. If you or I, dear Lowlander, should stand on the outside of the crowd, and appear more curious than devout, we should certainly be alluded to in the sermon as those wicked people. The discourses are no gilt-edged harangues dealing with the "larger hope," and larded with quotations from Tennyson and Browning. They are, on the contrary, full of Tartarean sulphur and strange fire, and rich in grotesque illustrations, of which this is a sample: "My friends, crowds of loathsome fiends are sent by the Prince of the Power of the Air to tempt us to our destruction. They hang over us waiting for their opportunity, just like a regiment of black crows hovering over a potato-field."
I am afraid that crude Calvinism, as preached in certain parts of the north, is nothing less than monstrous. The good God, beneficent Father of us all, is unrecognizable when eternal reprobation is represented as the inevitable fate of the vast majority of His children. In time, no doubt (and the sooner the better), the results of modern theological thought will penetrate into the uttermost nooks of the land.
Music and Religion
It is not easy to see why religion should be associated with gloom and disheartening ugliness. The long-drawn music of an Old Testament psalm is not without a certain doleful impressiveness, but the human soul needs occasional stimulus, even on Sundays, of something less lugubrious. Certain congregations hate hymns: they consider them carnal and uninspired. As for organ-music in a church, that would be praising God by machinery, a preposterous and intolerable approximation to Popery. Not long ago, a poor crofter in a Hebridean township, came to his minister, requesting that good man's offices for the christening of a child. The crofter in question was the possessor of an asthmatic old concertina, and the clergyman, before the rite of admission to the visible church could be performed, insisted on the annihilation of the ungodly instrument of music. The minister, in person, visited the croft, and disabled the concertina with a hammer. The child was then christened, and the clerical zany strode off victorious, feeling he had done a good day's work for Heaven. "Who ever heard of the Apostle Paul playing on an organ?" was the question once propounded by Dr. Begg. The argument was a splendid reductio ad absurdum, and resembles the old reason for the reluctance of the peasantry to eat potatoes, because no mention was made of them in Holy Writ. But songs and music are filtering into the glens, in an official way, by the agency of the Scotch Education Department. Musical drill is a feature of the school-room, and it is a joy to think that such is the case. Some of the old folk, however, look on astounded and shocked; they shake their heads, and would, if they could, abolish such frivolity. "Why all this singing and tramping?" said a Skyeman to me once. "What good will all the songs of the world do to a man when he comes to his death-bed? I would rather, this very moment, sit down in a public-house, and drink till I was intoxicated, than screech and howl these worldly airs." Life was not so absurd in the days of the Catholic ascendency. But human nature is slowly asserting itself, and the days of the glum tyrannical zealot are assuredly numbered.
Ethical Teaching in Schools
In some districts of the North, the inspectors have considerable trouble with certain teachers of the devout type who, from conscientious scruples, refuse to read to the children anything in the nature of a fairy tale. While examining a class in a remote Sutherland school, an inspector requested the schoolmaster to narrate to the children, in Gaelic, the story of Little Red Riding Hood, and get them thereafter to put it into English. But the teacher most emphatically refused: "No, no, I cannot do that: it is all a lie; wolves do not speak; no animal speaks." The inspector, to refute him, unwisely alluded to the Scripture account of Balaam's ass in the twenty-second chapter of Numbers; whereupon, the dominie nearly swooned at the impiety of comparing that inspired animal with a secular beast like Grimm's wolf. For some time after, the inspector was bombarded with anonymous letters, accusing him of habitually sitting in the scorner's chair. He was terrified lest some Member of Parliament, eager for a grievance, should be got to move the adjournment of the House of Commons, with the righteous object of directing the attention of Government to Little Red Riding Hood and the naughty inspector of schools. 
The question of religious teaching in schools is capable of an easy solution, and we in the south have come pretty near solving it. The best solution is to have no dogma at all in the school-room. The Catechism and Prayer-book are excellent in their way, but the school is no place for them. We have a very complete and extensive organisation of churches in the land, and an army of officials ordained to teach doctrines and tenets: let them take up the inculcation of creeds and rites, but don't let us perplex the school children with catechisms and metaphysical definitions. It is easy to make a distinction between morality and doctrine--a distinction which is alike clear and reasonable. Morality is an earthly and secular affair, and has to do with matters of elementary honesty such as every responsible citizen of a free country ought to practice. Religion is a higher affair, dealing with our relationship to the unseen: it is outside the province of the teacher, and should not be thrust into the school programme along with history and geography and grammar. Morality is of this world: religion of the next. Let everything be kept in its proper place. As to that division of duty which deals with right conduct, there is no controversy whatever. Thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not bear false witness--these, and the like elementary rules of conduct, are universally admitted to be right, for they are the groundwork of society. Take these away, and the world lapses into chaos. The following virtues are capable of being taught in schools:--(1) a strict adherence to the truth; (2) the application of the golden rule; (3) cheerful obedience at the call of duty; (4) reverence and respect for everything noble and great in the history of the world. These can all be taught, and are actually taught, by every conscientious teacher in the country. They constitute not the whole of duty, indeed, but the most difficult part of it--certainly all that need come into the realm of pedagogy.
 How differently the items in the Sacred Canon are regarded in scholastic circles in the South! A Glasgow teacher, discussing the Origin of Evil with a Government official, expressed great resentment at the loss of paradise through Adam's sin, and added: "It comes specially hard on me, seeing that I don't care a docken for apples."
Ami lecteur, have you ever heard of the Moderates? If, by chance, you have dipped into the interminable controversies that gyrated round the Disruption year, it is probable you may have heard more than enough of them. One gets the impression that they were an unimpassioned, easy-going, anti-brimstone, but highly estimable body of men. They were blamed for preaching morality and not the penetrating mysteries of the faith. In "The Holy Fair," Burns gives us an inimitable picture of the moral philosopher in the pulpit:--
I confess to a certain liking for Smith. He knew what was good for the Holy Willies and the other "chosen samples" and "swatches o' grace" in his auditory. Like a sensible man, and like the Apostle James, he laid more stress on "practice and on morals" than on lip-worship and faith. "Faith without works is dead" is a dictum that needs to be incessantly emphasised, and nowhere more than in certain ultra-orthodox localities of Scotland at the present day.
The Established Church is, with few exceptions, a negligible denomination in the Hebrides. For some reason it is regarded as the modern representative of the Moderate or Broad type of Calvinistic Christianity, and, as such, an abomination to the zealots. To show what a poor hold the Establishment has in Lewis, it is enough to remark that there are in that island only 183 Auld Kirk communicants out of a population of 32,947. Figures almost equally striking could be given for the Presbyteries of Uist, Skye, and Glenelg. The chief occupation of some parish ministers in insular Scotland must be that of killing time. I once met one of these reverend gentlemen in one of the hotels in Stornoway. He seemed to take a pleasure in running contrary to all the darling prejudices of the islanders. Dancing he approved of; he did not believe in prefacing his prayer or homily with a sanctimonious whine; and he actually was willing to admit that a few Catholics might get to heaven. An equally glaring fault--in the eyes of bigotry, I mean--was that he dropped into poetry at stated times, and sent his Gaelic verses to one of the Highland newspapers. The Parish Church buildings, in many localities of the West Highlands, are in a woeful state of disrepair. They have a prevailing odour of must and damp; the seats are hard deal, unkind to the human anatomy; doors and windows rattle and shake during the service; creeping things move along the walls; sometimes the floors are nothing but the uneven and unconcealed Scottish earth. In such churches, there is some credit in being devout.
A Savoury Book
An outstanding member of the clan Macdonald, for some time minister at Applecross, deserves a cordial vote of thanks for a savoury book he has written on the social and religious condition of the Highlands. He is not a bit scared by the Darwinian theory of evolution. "We have a gooddeal in common," he says, "with the brute creation, and have no cause to feel ourselves degraded on that account. The lower animals, not excluding the much-despised monkey, are specimens of divine workmanship which reflect the highest honour on the skill and power of the Maker." Could any admission be more handsome or candid than that?
I have learned a great deal from Mr. Macdonald's cheery and broad-minded volume. He is strong in history, and has had, it would seem, access to information that is closed to the general eye. There is a glorious simplicity in his views on Caledonian ethnology. A roguish prince, Gathelus, son of the king of Greece, migrated to Egypt, and married Scota, daughter of that Pharaoh who persecuted the Israelites. The various plagues "that o'er the realm of impious Pharaoh hung," terrified Gathelus, and he flitted in hot haste to Spain, and called his followers Scots, to please his wife. Later in life, he sent his son Hiber to Ireland, where the lad settled, and named the island after his noble self, Hibernia. Scots continued to pour into Ireland, viâ the Bay of Biscay, and finally, under Simon Brek, subdued the entire extent of the Green Island. In 360 A.D., they came over to Argyllshire, and aided the indigenous Picts (who were also Celts) against the legions of Rome. This is so compact and clear an account, that I wish it were true. The way in which sacred and profane history are blended strikes me as singularly able.
Mr. Macdonald has an intimate knowledge of Celtic superstitions, and always castigates the right thing. Certain diseases of the brain were, till quite recently, believed to be curable if the afflicted man could procure a suicide's skull and take a drink out of it. Mr. Macdonald rightly dwells upon the absurdity of such a specific, but confesses that one might as well try to "bale out the Atlantic" as eradicate the foolish pagan notions that still linger in the glens.
Ministers have a great deal of captious criticism to stand, if we may judge by Mr. Macdonald's anecdotes. They are blamed for terminating their discourses with a silver tail (i.e., intimating a special collection). The sermon itself is not immune from cruel jests, as the following report of a parishioner's criticism will show: "A minister is like a joiner. The joiner takes a piece of wood and shapes it roughly with the axe. Then he applies his rough plane, and smooths it down a bit. After that, he takes his fine plane; and, lastly, he rubs it with sandpaper, and finishes it with polish till he makes it appear like glass. And so with the minister: he works his sermon, from sheet to sheet, with pen and ink, till he makes it at last so smooth that a flea could not stand on it." 
 Ministers, being public men, are, of course, as Mr. Macdonald means to point out, exposed to the criticism, frequently so absurd, that eminence entails. I recently examined the bye-laws of a literary association in Ross-shire, of which the president is a sheep-farmer, and the secretary, a postman. It is a rule of this association that no minister is ever to be president, the reason assigned being that ministers would try to elevate the natives too hurriedly. The people do not object to be elevated, but they wish the process to be performed without unnecessary haste.
I was not a little surprised during my attendance at Highland churches to hear the ministers devoting much strong rhetoric to the sin of Sabbath-breaking. Taking the air on the first day of the week for quiet meditation and the good of one's health, has always seemed to me a laudable practice, but in many Highland parishes, a Sunday stroll implies ungodliness, even although the stroller may have attended one or more diets of worship earlier in the day. Such a state of matters is preposterously absurd, and, to my thinking, quite irreligious--it at least tends to make hypocrites. Some years ago, I spent a week in a typical insular village, lodging in the local inn. It was noticeable that on Sundays, the front blinds of the house were never drawn up. When the church-bells tolled the hour for public worship, the solemn devotees could be seen (through holes in the blind) pacing along, looking fixedly at the toes of their boots. The landlord of the house thought it no sin to observe the passers-by, so long as he could do so in a clandestine way. He had no desire to mend the blind.
The restfulness and peace of a British Sunday is a blessed thing, as every Briton who has been long resident abroad, will readily admit. There is, however, a reasonable medium to be found between the unnatural Calvinistic Sabbath (with its limited view of the world through a torn blind) and the Continental Sunday, gay with skipping and junketing. Within recent years, to some extent owing to the bicycle and motor-car, the Sabbath has become rather too animated and bustling. The change is perhaps not entirely regrettable. The terrible Sunday dulness of some of our large towns has been, of late years, rendered less oppressive by the opening of museums and art galleries. I heard a man of fifty confess that in his boyhood he prayed fervently once, and only once, a week: the prayer in question was said on Sunday evening, and consisted of a heartfelt ejaculation of thanks to Heaven that the holy day was over for another week.
Church-going is a splendid and salutary practice, and every man who does not base his life on some religious sanction, is leading a mutilated life. There is such a thing, however, as ecclesiastical dyspepsia, a disease engendered by forced attendance at too many religious services when one is young. The disease is unfortunately apt to develop in mature years, into complete indifference to doctrine of all kinds.
After all, doctrine is largely useful as a mental exercise, and may easily become divorced from practical honesty. Not once but fifty times have I been told that the village experts in theology were precisely the men who needed most watching in mundane matters. "So-and-so is a specialist on the millennium: beware of him." "Old Duncan is the strictest Sabbatarian in the island, but on Monday he's worth keeping an eye on." "Many a man that keeps the fourth commandment is not so particular about the others." Such are the phrases one is perpetually hearing, and they go far to prove how inoperative are ritual, profession, and form, in the life of some Christians.
To keep the ten commandments, or rather, I should say, the eleven, is no easy matter for either Celt or Saxon. It is far easier to be ostentatiously religious than scrupulously moral, to say prayers than to pay debts, to split hairs of doctrine than to love your enemies. I never read a more markedly scriptural book than The Men of Skye, nor one that displays such intolerance to the school of Laodiceans. I am not insensible to the intense enthusiasm of the author for the memory of the illiterate catechists who went round the island preaching to the people in a homely and graphic way. The unlovely feature of the book is the antagonism displayed towards those who wish to bring about a union of the Presbyterian bodies. "Not all the cement outside of heaven," one man says, "could bring about a union of the Free and U.P. Churches." The Declaratory Act, secular teaching in schools, instrumental music, and such like, all come in for severe treatment or ironical reference.
The Men of Skye
The book to which I have referred (The Men of Skye) gives a wonderful insight into the religious psychology of the Celtic zealot. It was in Portree that I first got a look at the little work, which consists of a series of biographies of outstanding lay preachers. I enjoyed the perusal of it immensely, and I am afraid the pious author will regard me as little better than one of the wicked when I say that I had many a hearty laugh at its contents. I am very unwilling to seek gaiety in pious books, very averse to laugh at honest, heart-felt beliefs, but the author of The Men of Skye was too many for me. His quaint metaphors, droll tenses and unlicensed syntax, were a perpetual feast of nectared sweets.
The language in which the book is written is not Gaelic, though it has not quite reached the stage of English. The following extract is a typical one: "John Mackenzie lived at Galtrigil, was a God-fearing man, and professed religion, and his conduct was worthy of his profession, consistent in all its parts. He was employed as fishcurer to Dr. Martin. When he would be busy in the store, on the shore, his wife would go down with his food. He had a large heap of salt beside him, but he was so scrupulously conscientious that when she took down an egg, she would need also to bring from his own house the grain of salt he would put in it. He would not take so much as a grain of salt that was not his own. He was careful about what belonged to the cause of Christ, and would like to know that those who took up a profession of religion had undergone what he termed a clean conversion."
Some of the stories told of Angus Macleod, are altogether unique: "He was one day entrusted with the herding of the minister's cattle, but while he prayed, the cattle made their way into the corn. The minister came out and began to advise and rebuke him, but Angus said, 'Let the righteous smite me, it shall be a kindness; and let him reprove me, it shall be an excellent oil which shall not break my head.'" (Psalm cxli. 5.) I consider that story and the two which follow quite equal, in their diverting pointlessness, to any of those told by Cicero in De Oratore, Book ii. At one time it was thought advisable to teach Angus how to read, but he never could be got to master the alphabet. He would utteraloud the following reflections: "A b, ab: Ah! that is but dry. There is no food there for my soul. There is no word about Christ or God there, no word about forgiveness of sin. I would rather be at the back of a dyke where I would get a moment of the presence of the Lord." As Angus usually replied to his associates by a text of Scripture, he must have had a good ear for Holy Writ. "His father was one day repairing a dyke. Angus tried to assist him and broke the spade. His father's temper was roused, and he ran after his son to punish him. Angus ran away calling out, 'Oh, Lord, avenge me of mine adversary.'" On one occasion, when asked why he had refused to pray in public, he replied that it was out of his power to do so at the time. "Why," said his interlocutor, "Jonah was able to pray even in the whale's belly." "Yes, yes," said Angus, "but I was in a worse state than Jonah: for the whale was in my belly."
It may not be unnecessary to state that the word Men in the title of the book is to be understood as meaning "men of exceptional piety." The word is a technical one in that sense. All the men I have read about were fervid Frees, many of them being elders and catechists in that body. After the Disruption, there was a wonderful crop of these men produced in the Highlands, and through their means, religion became a very real and forcible affair. Their attitude to life and general outlook on the world are quite unlike anything to be found among the luke-warm believers of the Laodicean South. We read of one zealot devoting a whole winter to the task of combating shinty and tobacco. It is impossible to withhold some measure of admiration from Christians so staunch, logical, and uncompromising. Logical? Well, here at least is a gem of ratiocination. What, for example, was the cause that forced so many Skyemen to emigrate to the Canadian plains and the Australian bush? The fathers of Skye believed that the crofters, having insufficiently appreciated the unique opportunities of divine worship at home, were driven by a wrathful deity over the water to a land where there were few or no Presbyterian Churches.
The Auldest Kirk
There are some parts of Scotland that the Reformation seems never to have reached. I have been told that up till this day no Protestant minister ever preached in Morar (the delightful spot, with lake of same name, near Mallaig), and that in consequence Catholics call it "Blessed Morar" (Morar Bheanaichte). There is a Catholic strip of country, extending right through the heart of Scotland, along the Caledonian Canal; aristocrats, chiefs, and crofters there boast that their ecclesiastical history goes back, uncontaminated by schisms and private judgment, right to the time of Ninian and Columba.
It appears evident that the iconoclastic Parliament of 1560, which made it unlawful to obey the Pope or say mass, pretty effectually paralysed the Catholic Church in the land. Only in secluded districts, such as Uist, Barra, Morar, Arisaig, and Glengarry, were the faithful safe from prosecution. The organisation of the Church was maimed and broken, and hundreds of priests took to flight. To use the cruel words of Milton--
Having visited a fair number of Catholic districts in the West of Scotland, I have given myself the pleasure of reading, as far as is available, the historical records of the Pope's faithful adherents there. These are most interesting as showing the pertinacity of religious faith among the most hostile surroundings. The Scots College at Rome, founded by Clement VIII., supplied a large number of priests, who spread themselves abroad in the glens, and kept the old faith from completely perishing. The Roman Catholic College at Scanlan, on the Braes of Glenlivet, was a turf-built erection, dating from 1712. It was often compulsorily closed and the students dispersed. The most important school for priests in the West was at Buorblach, near Morar. Here the aspirants for priesthood studied for a year or two, after which they proceeded to some one of the Scots colleges abroad--such as Paris, Ratisbon, Valladolid, or Rome. Those students who received the whole of their instruction at home, and got ordained without going abroad, were styled heather priests.
The best-known Catholic township of the West Highlands at the present time is undoubtedly Arisaig, a charming spot, where the mild air allows the wild flowers to spring in profusion and where the fuchsia thrives better than anywhere else in Scotland. There is a strikingly elegant Catholic Church here, built on a commanding site that dominates the bay. In September, 1904, I addressed a meeting in the Astley Hall of Arisaig, under the genial chairmanship of the Clerk of the House of Commons. The audience was overwhelmingly Catholic, and it was quite evident that all were keenly appreciative of the library that had recently been sent to the district. It gave me no ordinary pleasure to note that the literary society of the place was made up of both Catholics and Protestants, and that all the inhabitants, forgetting their religious differences, could assemble together as friends on the common meeting-ground of literature. Such an amalgamation is bound to mitigate the sectarian rancour that too often works like a pestilence in small villages and rural communities. It is an excellent feature, too, in such places as Arisaig, that the local priest gives every encouragement to his people to read and study secular books of an elevating character. It would be strange indeed if the representative of a Church which in mediæval times gave such splendid encouragement to art and letters, should deem it a duty to prohibit his people from availing themselves of the means of culture.
It undoubtedly comes as a surprise to a Lowlander, who is prone to think that every born Scot is necessarily a born Protestant, to find in remote nooks of his native country, home-grown specimens of the faith that was once prevalent everywhere. He has to sit down and muse on the hillside over the matter, and, if he is imaginative, he will see by fancy's eye the skiff of St. Columba breasting the breakers on its way from Ireland to Iona.
The Episcopal Church
Of all the Churches or sects in Scotland, probably the most remarkable is the Episcopalian. Many Englishmen settle in the Lowlands for purposes of trade, and, in most cases, bring their religion with them. Such immigration explains the numerous Episcopal chapels in the towns of southern Scotland. But no such cause can explain the presence of scores of small Episcopal congregations in the rural districts of Aberdeen and Banff. These have not been imported from over the Border, but in reality have a long history behind them. Many of them date from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The Stuart kings never liked Presbyterianism, and James I. tried to make the Scotch Church as like the English one as possible: in 1610, indeed, he managed to bring about the consecration of a certain number of Scotch bishops. The Episcopalians in the Northshowed a warm affection for the Stuarts during the distresses of that royal house, and such Jacobitism did the scattered congregations a deal of harm. The number of Episcopal chapels throughout the land is fairly high, but the total of the communicants is relatively small. The clergy are a most estimable and cultured body of men, and perform their duties, which are often very laborious, in an eminently exemplary fashion. Their stipends are ridiculously poor, and the scene of their labours is frequently the reverse of lively. Very often, in the bleak moors and glens of north-east Scotland, I have spent pleasant and memorable evenings in the village rectory. The modes of speech and general atmosphere of a cotch rectory differ piquantly from those of the manse. It is certain that a clergyman who is in constant touch with the Anglican ritual, develops a special turn of talk and a characteristic set of mannerisms.
I am convinced that, in learning and culture, the Episcopal clergy compare very favourably with those of the other Churches. Some of them have written, both in the departments of theology and general literature, works of outstanding and permanent value. In spite of all that, however, it does not seem probable that they will make many converts to their creed. Presbyterianism has a firm grip on the country: symbol and ritual do not thrive well in the cold air of the North. Once upon a time, in the Black Isle, as the records of the Arpafeelie Episcopal Church show, there was a strong feeling of antagonism to Presbyterianism; but that was in 1711, and was probably more political than religious.
It is a well-known fact that a large proportion of the aristocracy and landed-gentry of Scotland are Episcopalians. This is due, not so much to the leisure they have for studying theological problems, as to the fact that most of them have been educated in English public schools.
How pleasant it is to contemplate the broad-mindedness of the greatest of our Scotch Episcopalians, Sir Walter Scott, as seen in the thirty-seventh chapter of Guy Mannering! Speaking of religious differences, he makes Pleydell say: "A plain man may go to heaven without thinking about them at all." Even at the present day, there is a most regrettable lack of such urbanity in the disputes of educated theologians. I picked up a book not long since, which amused as well as shocked me greatly. It purported to be a history of the Church in Scotland. The author was a facetious Episcopalian, for his history made no mention of either the Free, the Established, or the United Presbyterian denominations. The Episcopal sect alone had the honour of being dubbed a Church. Now, if a writer ever took it on him to write a history of the Church in England, he ought to devote space to all the bodies, and be careful not to omit mention even of the Plymouth Brethren. I rather think that the Plymouth Brethren should have the lengthiest treatment of all, seeing that no shred of the Church resembles so closely the original type of Christianity.
An Interlude of Metre
I have often endeavoured to fix discourses from the Highland pulpits by embodying in metre (I do not say poetry) the leading thought or most striking illustration that I carried away. For the sake of variety and to prevent this chapter from appearing too frivolous, I, at this point, give one or two "moderate" sermons in little.
The Christian Brethren
It would be well-spent labour if some sympathetic historian could find time to write a short account of the Plymouth Brethren, giving details of the origin, tenets, divisions, and influence of the sect. I am surprised that Mr. Barrie in his notable excursions into Scotch life and religion, has never portrayed such a fine specimen of the working-man turned theologian.
It must not be supposed that only the rich and the leisurely have what is called religious experiences and shadowed souls. The finest developments, doubtless, of the religious sense require time and money. That leisurely groping after tendencies, that introspective analysis of the sins of omission and commission, that delightful perception of the falling away from righteousness of your brethren and sisters--all these choice sweets are, if they are to be adequately enjoyed, compatible only with a minimum of £300 a year. The religious sense and the musical are in many points alike. If you wish to develop an initially melodious soul, it means expense: you must go to professors, study counterpoint, practice many hours daily, and attend concerts of the most exclusive and expensive kind. Similarly with religion in its finest flower. You need slaves to cook and wash for you if you mean to ecstaticise and see beatific visions: you must get the most fashionable and picturesque specialists to come and feel your religious pulse, and you must on no account neglect the subscription lists. But only those rich enough to be hypochondriac can afford such luxuries. Now, in the toiling classes there are often good ears for music, and exquisite responsiveness to religious sensations. What satisfies such natures and such wants must be cheap. The Plymouth Brethren (I ought rather to say Christian Brethren), have no General Assembly, little or no pedantry of a costly kind, and yet, I believe, they supply all the exhilaration of schisms, splits, counter-splits, and heresy-hunts. Every man his own General Assembly! There may be a lack of the finer touches in such a system, but what is lacking in elegance is fully made up in clearness of view and rombustious vigour.
In many of the fishing villages on the east coast of Scotland, there are large congregations of these worthy men raising their Ebenezers, and making a joyful noise on the first day of the week. I have a good deal of sympathy with their democratic and direct style of worship. In Scotland, when a man gets converted, he feels constrained to do something, but very often there is little outlet for his energy in the calm routine of the fashionable churches--hence the necessity for bethels and mission-houses. At their revivals, let me add, one is in presence of that mysterious awakening to which every religion owes its birth.
In the autumn of 1906, I had an interesting talk with the minister of a seaside village on the shore of the Moray Firth, and was distressed to find that he was sorely harassed by the lively sect I have mentioned. Every now and again a wandering evangelist comes along the coast, pitches a tent, and begins a series of gospel services. Those who are converted, neglect the church and all its ordinances, and begin preaching on their own account; nay, they even buttonhole the minister and preach to him, accusing him of being an unjust steward, a hireling, and no shepherd, and so on. Such conduct creates a very painful situation. With a good deal of detail, the long-suffering clergyman gave me an account of a visit he had paid to an old woman recently converted. The narrative of her conversion as told by herself was quaint and touching: "They were a' gettin' it," she said, "and I wasna gettin' it. So I jist went to the door and steekit my e'en, and raised them to the lift, and I got it. Isn't that the way o't, auld man?" "Aye, aye, that's the way o't, auld wife," chimed in the husband. The latter then took up the wondrous tale: "When she came in and tell't me she had got it, I went doon on my knees to thank the Lord jist at the fireside, and lo and behold, when I opened my e'en, I was at the street door. The Spirit had taken me there, unbeknown to me. So I lifted up my voice and called on God's people. And in five minutes the room and kitchen were filled wi' saved folk, a' singing hymns, because my auld wife had got it at last."
I also remember meeting an old thatcher of eminent talents who seemed to me to be on the straight road for Zion, for he fulfilled the Scriptural injunction to be fervent in spirit as well as not slothful in business. James had at one time been precentor in one of the regular churches, but owing to some cantankerous criticism of his melody, he seceded to the Brethren, who fearlessly accepted his services gratis. James was specially lyrical on the roof, and it was a treat to hear him sing "There is rest for the weary," as he pushed the thatch into its long home:--
I must not omit to mention (and with reverence be it spoken) that James had a reputation far and wide in the country-side, for the vigour and extreme unction of his grace before meat. Though giving a humble tenor to the initial phrases and using the tar-brush on himself, and the hungry company as putrid sinners unworthy even of the least of the mercies, he always contrived to reassure everyone by sunnily rounding off the matter with some rich and racy allusions to the gracious and ample promises of Holy Writ. One could have felt quite comfortable even in a slight excess of gluttony after such introductory words of blessing. You felt that the occasion had been met, that something like perfection had been attained. James was willing to admit shortcomings in thatching, or in any department of human activity, so long as his superiority in pre-prandial supplication was admitted. But it so happened that Fate, whose delight it is to imperil even the stablest reputations, sent his way a South-country Brother with a gift in prayer truly appalling. At a gathering at which James was present, this stranger was honoured by being asked to say grace. In the process, he soared to such heights of oratory and supplicatory fervour, that the uniform opinion of the guests, as evinced by looks, demeanour, and even congratulation, was that James had at last been beaten on his own ground. Supreme dejection settled on the thatcher, and neither bite nor sup could dislodge the settled melancholy of his soul. After long pondering with chin on chest in a corner of that pious throng, he had an idea. Sidling up to the matron of the house, he, with a terrible whisper of earnestness, addressed her in these words: "Mistress, before we gang hame, doon wi' a whang o' cheese and a farl o' cake--it'll no' cost ye much--and I'll ha'e a tussle wi' him for't yet." She gladly complied with his request. His excitement gave him inspiration, and over that cheese and oatcake, he delivered himself of such a grace as had never before proceeded from his lips. A murmur of involuntary admiration greeted the conclusion. James was comforted, and once more held his head erect.
To talk of the Evolution of Religion to men like James would be a complete waste of time. Such men regard themselves as the acme of the process: whatever modifications may supervene after their day will be deteriorations. It is quite impossible to persuade an enthusiast that he is a mere phenomenon of development, and not, actually and now, the roof and crown of things. Even if persuasion were possible, it would be a cruelty to disillusionise these happy wights,--men who, with such sublime confidence, can read their title clear to mansions in the sky. They have a complete key to the universe, and are as happy as if they had seen the whole vast circle of truth.
Drimnin in Morven
How many of my readers know where Drimnin is? If I should say, "In the parish of Morven," it is possible the majority of them would not be greatly edified, unless they had acquaintance with the saintly Macleod's Reminiscences of a Highland Parish. Well, Drimnin is on the mainland, nearly opposite the entrance to the haven of Tobermory. The Chevalier nears into the coast when anyone wishes to land, and two boatmen, obeying a signal, pull out from shore into the open, and the passenger leaps, as gracefully as circumstances permit, into their arms--amid the cheers of those left on the steamer.
The clergyman of Morven ministers to a parish that has over a hundred miles of seaboard, and, strange to say, there have been only three incumbents in it during the last hundred and thirty years, himself being the third, with twenty-six years' ministry to his credit so far. These facts procured him an extraordinary reception in America, where he spent a holiday recently. The Americans, with whom change is the permanent element, looked with amazement on a minister who came from a parish with such a record. They thronged round his hotel to get shaking hands with him, while he blushed to think that homage was being paid to the longevity of his predecessors. It is no treat to be a lion in Maine.
The visitor to Drimnin should return to Oban by driving to Lochaline, where there is a pier. A mere glance up that inlet of Lochaline is sufficient to prove the unerring accuracy of Sir Walter's description: "Fair Lochaline's woodland shore." Scott had a marvellous eye for scenery, and having once seen a locality, could describe it better than a native could do who had lived in the neighbourhood from youth upwards. 
 I may here refer to a pleasant three hours spent in rowing on Lochaline in the company of Mr. Hugh Macintyre, an old gentleman full of Scott and well versed in the lore of the locality. He was a policeman in Glasgow for thirty-five years (latterly as guardian of the Kelvingrove Picture Gallery), and now, in the enjoyment of good health and a pension, spends his time reading and doing good in his native district. Mr. Macintyre's earliest recollection is of his father being evicted from a small holding, at the head of the loch, in the "forties."
Tennyson and Palgrave were visitors at Ardtornish, as Mr. Lang tells us, but made no special impression on the natives, who styled them respectively Tinman and Pancake.
At Craignish (two miles or so from Ardfern, next pier to Luing on the way from Crinan to Oban) I was astonished to find what I think is unique in Scotland, an old clergyman, born in 1824, still, without any aid whatever, performing all the duties of a parish minister in one of the wildest parts of Argyllshire. I refer to the Rev. Mr. M'Michael, who was chairman at the lecture. The old gentleman, who is remarkably hale in body and never melancholy at meal-time (as he slyly puts it), is prone to speak by preference of the events of "auld lang syne." He gave me a most vivid account of Professor John Wilson (whom, as I do not now live in Paisley, I may safely venture to call Paisley's greatest son), who was one of his teachers, and who, as "Christopher North," wrote so many witty and solid articles that undeservedly perished in Blackwood's Magazine at the beginning of last reign. I have rarely had such a treat as my talk with this hale-hearted octogenarian. His charming daughters keep house for him, and employ their leisure time weaving at a loom of their own. The sheep that graze on the glebe supply the wool, and the intermediate stages between the back of the sheep and the woollen overcoat on the back of the needy are all supervised by these dexterous daughters of the manse.
The coach to Craignish passes through a bit of Scotland that, in the leafy month of June, must be glorious to behold. I passed along in a fierce and chilling blizzard of sleet and snow. If a poet could keep warm, thought I, this would be the spot for him to get impressive scenes for his word-pictures. At one part, the road ziz-zags up a hill for three miles, alongside a furious burn, to a height of six hundred feet; from which eminence one sees, on the right, great bare crags and steep heights, and, on the left, an inlet of the Atlantic foaming wildly below. Ye gentlemen of the cloth, whose lot is cast in towns and who sit at home in ease, think of the trials of your rural brethren in their attempts to drive in winter through drifting snow to a presbytery meeting fourteen miles away! 
 I could mention another rural parish, considerably further north, where, two winters ago, the roads were so badly blocked with snow that for five consecutive weeks no church services could be held! Both minister and congregation were overcome with grief.
A Model Minister
Not far from the city of Aberdeen is a little village of seafaring folk, and the worthy minister, the Rev. Mr. Pollock, is guide, philosopher, and friend to the entire community. Up to his manse, which is a mile from the uneven and fishy streets, there is a constant va-et-vient of parishioners. One old widow wishes him to write to her son at the Yarmouth fishing, herself being ignorant of English spelling; this old man, painfully hobbling uphill on his stick, and muttering to himself as he goes, desires the faithful pastor to come and cheer a bed-ridden wife who is failing fast; that young fisher-lass will blush as she tells that her young man is on the way home to claim her as his own, with the Church's aid. Mr. Pollock is the confidential repository of all their secrets: nothing in their lives is hidden from him; he knows all of comic and tragic in their lowly careers. Along with his wife, he visits every house in the place, and from intimate knowledge can tell you, nodding his head to this or that house as he walks along, the worth or worthlessness of every native of the village. His time is so fully taken up with pure religion and undefiled, that he has no time to waste on the Higher Criticism.
A tout for some wandering minstrels recently came over from Aberdeen, meaning to leave one of his red-and-yellow bills (announcing a performance) in each of the local shops. The minister saw him as he distributed the bills, and closely followed up on his trail. Mr. Pollock entered each shop and said to the shopkeeper: "Please let me see the bill you have there in the window." On getting it, he would scan it, and request to get keeping it. In no shop was he refused, so that by the time he got to the end of the village, he was carrying two dozen large concert placards, while the tout, merrily whistling, and all unconscious of the nullity of his labours, was on his way back to Aberdeen. "Lead us not into temptation," said the minister, as he thrust the garish announcements into his study stove. None of Mr. Pollock's flock were at the concert that night. Perhaps, if any had gone, little harm would have been done. The minister, however, thought they were better at home, or at the local prayer-meeting.
Mr. Pollock's predecessor was a thin, unemotional man--a geologist--who spent an important percentage of his time chipping rocks and looking for fossils. Owing to this mania, his flock were forgotten, and came to forget him. No wonder if the church attendance dwindled! Ab uno disce omnes, as Virgil says. One day this ordained geologist had agreed to baptize a child in a hamlet some miles away, and set forth to walk to the place in good time. Unhappily, by the roadside, there was a quarry, into which, by instinct, the minister glided, keen and eager-eyed. He stayed therein for four hours, and forgot all about the infant (squalling, no doubt, in special robe, and impatient for the christening), the waiting relatives, the inevitable decanter, and the thick cuts of indigestible bun. The minister, I say, trudged home with his treasure-trove of petrified ferns and foot-marked shale--a greater fossil than any under his own cases of glass. His memory was stirred by his wife's catechising, but it was too late to undo the mischief.
Ministerial Trials in Olden Times
In modern times, ministers are badly paid, considering the expenses of their training and long education, but they are better paid than they used to be. In 1756, the minister of Ferintosh, a big, active man, with the object of adding something to his stipend, leased the meal-mill of Alcaig from the laird of Culloden. The combination of miller and minister did not please his parishioners. It never occurred to these clowns that the occupation of miller is singularly adapted for reflection: spiritual and bodily nourishment (thought of together) might well form a field of thought fertile in instructive metaphors; "the dark round of the dripping wheel," the work of separating husks and flour, the topics of dearth and abundance, might all come to have a homiletic value to a serious-minded teacher of religion. But a cry of scandal, directed not against themselves for underpaying their minister, but against that worthy man for being an ordained miller, arose in the parish. A member of the congregation was deputed to give a gentle hint to the minister that the two occupations were incompatible. The interview took place on the high road. "What news this morning, Thomas?" said the minister. "Have you not heard of the fearful news?" said Thomas. "No, what is it?" "Well, everybody's saying," said Thomas, with a whisper of affected horror, "that the minister's wife has taken up with the big miller of Alcaig." The delicacy of this hint was such that the minister resigned his lease.
The trials of ministers long ago were truly great. Witches had to be reckoned with, as the aforementioned Ferintosh minister, who was their foe, knew to his cost. By their incantations they caused him to be afflicted with somnolency. As this sleepy fit usually came on in church between the first psalm and the prayer, it can be easily seen how awful were the reprisals of these Satanic hags.
An Artful Dodger
The Rev. Mr. Rogers, minister of a parish in Fife, was, like many another worthy man, in sore financial straits at one period of his life. He was a widower, and probably this fact accounts for his displenished exchequer. With supreme audacity he touched the bell of a rich old maiden lady, and on entering her boudoir he bluntly admitted his lack of funds, and said, "Give me £200 and I'll marry you." She gave him the money, and for months after never saw his face. Finally she wrote asking an interview. He came, and she tartly said, "Did you not say, Mr. Rogers, that if I gave you £200, you would marry me?" "Certainly I did," said the cunning minister, "and I'm ready to marry you whenever you produce your man: where is he?" This anecdote shows the difficulty of being unambiguous when speaking English, and furnishes an argument for the adoption of French as the language of courtship as well as of diplomacy.
The same foxy ecclesiastic wished two things, both of which his heritors flatly refused: (a) a new manse, and (b) a site with a wide prospect. Finding them intractable, he professed humility, and craved merely a species of scaffolding to buttress up one of the walls of the old manse. The heritors marvelled a little at the strange request, but, glad of being saved from the cost of a new building, authorised the buying of some sturdy joists to prop up a wall that the minister averred was off the plumb. No sooner was the buttressing timber in position than Mr. Rogers appeared with a violent complaint in the Sheriff Court, declaring that the manse was like to fall about his ears, and that the heritors had palpably admitted the danger by erecting a scaffold. The Sheriff expressed strong disapproval of the heritors' stinginess, and ordered them to get a new manse built for the minister. Now as to the site! To spite Mr. Rogers, the heritors determined to deprive him of a good view, and directed the St. Andrews builder to erect the new manse down in the valley on a broad bank by a burnside. The master-builder placed pegs and marks in the ground at the prescribed place and returned to St. Andrews, telling his workmen to proceed next day to begin the work, and mentioning that they would know the site by marks he had placed there. At cockcrow the minister was afoot, busy transferring the pegs to the summit of a lovely knoll. The tradesmen came out to the country, and looking for the site found it on the hill-top and began their work. After they had been a week or more on the walls, out from St. Andrews came the master to see how his men were progressing. He came near a complete collapse when he saw his men on the hill instead of in the valley. He spoke winged words to them, but it was too late. In such fashion did Mr. Rogers outwit his heritors. I regret that no literary relics of this acute divine are to be had. He seems to have been in his way a kind of Higher Critic judging from a remark he made on the Ark: "How did you manage," he said, as if addressing Noah in person, "how did you manage to keep the first plank of your boat from getting rotten before the last was nailed on, if you actually took 120 years to put the whole thing together?"
Some Anecdotes from Gigha
The late minister of Gigha, a small island community of 360 souls off the coast of Kintyre was a cleric of great humour and full of stories. His church was the only one in the island, a fact of which he was proud. At a communion service, a minister from the mainland, struck off a monumental phrase in one of his prayers. He said "Thou hast shown, O Lord, Thy confidence in Thy servant, the devout minister of Gigha, for lo! out of the plentitude of Thy great mercy Thou has seen fit to give him an island all to himself." I have heard and do in part believe it, that the effect of such a supplication in Gaelic is overpoweringly strong.
This same minister "of the island," whose digestion I may say, was so perfect that he could triumphantly absorb strong tea and poached eggs as a regular midnight meal, told me one night over this collation, the story of a fisherman in one of the Western Islands, whose prayer before going to sea was of a singular character. He invariably addressed the Deity as Sibshe (You) instead of the ordinary Thusa (Thou). On one occasion, when the weather was squally and danger was anticipated, he prayed thus: "O Lord God, my Beloved, if You would be so good as to take the care of Mary and Jessie, my daughters; but that She-Devil, my wife, the daughter of Peter Macpherson, I am indifferent about her: she will have another husband before I am eaten by the crabs!"
Here follows another well-known story from the same authority. A Lowlander, taking a week's sail on one of Macbrayne's cargo-boats stepped ashore, on Sunday morning, at a remote insular port, to attend church, as was fit and proper. The text was the well-known verse "Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?" The minister, strange to say, preached a long and painfully vivid sermon on leprosy. The tourist waited, after sermon, in order to talk with the minister and quietly remonstrate with him. He said: "You gave us an excellent discourse to-day, but do you think it followed quite appropriately from the text: surely you are aware that a leopard and a leper are two different things." The minister, eying the tourist with a look of indignant scorn for a second, lifted up his voice and denounced him thus: "Out of my sight with you: I know what you are; you are one of these pestilent fellows called Higher Critics. Begone!"
In the Long Island, it is an article of fixed belief among the stricter Presbyterians that Catholics are outside any scheme of salvation. Episcopalians, too, are regarded as being in an extremely dubious position. Any stick, however, is good enough to beat the partisans of the Pope. "Brethren," said a minister near Stornoway, "I have forgotten my sermon to-day: but I'll just say a word or two against the Catholics." Such a philippic, he seemed to think, could never be out of season.
Denunciation has always been a favourite method of the religious bigot. If the various sects of the Christian Church, could go on their way, ameliorating the world, and leaving each other in peace, the millennium would be within reasonable distance. I heard a U.F. say to a Wee Free: "Donald, you'll no' gang to Heaven, because I'm bad." The sentence is good enough for an epigram. Unfortunately, too many of our sectaries think it the prime virtue of their faith to run down their neighbours.
Growing Popularity of Ruskin
One of the most cheerful features in the present-day thought of Scotland, and one from which we may anticipate excellent results in every department of social and religious life, is the growing popularity of the great apostle of the nineteenth century, John Ruskin. Though dead, he continues to speak; and from close inspection of the registers that show in detail the nature of the books asked for, at the various village libraries, I have noted, with no small pleasure, that Ruskin's works are eagerly read all over the Highlands and islands of Scotland. This is something quite new, and will, I am certain, work immense good.
For Ruskin's work in the department of religion, no words can be too commendatory. His genius was in thorough accord with the spirit of the Biblical writers, and his modes of speech and illustration perpetually reminiscent of Scripture. He loses no opportunity of dwelling on the culturing influence of the Bible. There is also a fine tolerance in his religious teaching, which is alike helpful and suggestive. His is that variety of teaching which we find most effectively outside of the ranks of professional commentators, and which comes through the keen flashes of genius that accompany the insight of the literary artist. He has pointed out to us with great eloquence that, while specific doctrines take at various epochs very different degrees of importance, and aspects of rite, ceremony, and all that, appeal with changing force to different generations, the essence of religious feeling, without which dogma becomes harsh and rite insipid, hardly varies at all; seeing that in the musings of the great minds of all ages, we have oftenest the pure gold of devotion, mingled, though it may sometimes be, with the adhesive dross of superstition. He also warns us of the danger of mistaking pugnacity for piety, and earnestly urges that, at every moment of our lives, we should be trying to find out, not in what we differ from other men, but in what we agree. Ruskin considers this to be the correct spirit in which to approach ancient as well as modern religion, believing that if a reader cannot understand a spiritual agency, or thinks that the best of ancient men were not dominated by any such, the understanding of the very alphabet of history will be endangered. It would tend greatly to salvation from arid formalism, if ministers would teach that Plato, Sophocles, Browning, Carlyle, are all apostles of religion. A living word from an intuitionist like the last-named not unfrequently vivifies with new force the dark sayings of a Hebrew seer, in much more direct fashion than half-a-score of mutilated Pentateuchs made in the delirium of the Higher Criticism.
In spite of his unsystematic procedure, Ruskin deserves to be numbered among the men who have earned the gratitude of their fellows, by translating some of the ever-vital aspects of religion into the vocabulary of the hour. The language of religious discourse is liable to a subtle kind of pedantry, requiring a vigorous intellect adequately to dissolve. New illustrations, novel forms of definition, are often helpful in expelling the dreariness of outworn and meaningless phrases. Ruskin's task is facilitated by the nice balance of his intellectual and imaginative endowments, by the fact that his words are not mere symbols of definite connotation, but marvellous centres of emotional force. Happily he did not seek to elaborate any system of religion: but now here, now there, in his books, one comes upon the pure gold of religion, enshrined in exquisite jewelries of diction, which glimmer on (if I may say so) to the utmost verge of emotion, and more successfully than any formal harangue, work out their intended function. Such works as Unto this Last and Munera Pulveris, however keen the mental antagonism they may initially provoke, mark a period in the spiritual life of the reader: no matter what the prepossessions of a man may be, these books will modify them. He is reverent, but, like Plato, he is dynamic. You can't sit at ease as you read his pages, for they are charged as much with defiance as with guidance.