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Any account of the Covenanters' era must be grievously defective which does not assign a prominent place to the heroines of the noble war-the pious mothers and daughters of Scotland, under whose care the heroes and martyrs were reared, by whose example, not unfrequently, they were fired, and by whose tender zeal as ministering angels of the Covenant, they were comforted and sustained. In Mr Gilfillan's book there is, as might be expected, a due appreciation of this element in the struggle.
“ The courage, too, of the women of the Covenant, must not be forgotten. Truly, from Lady Hamilton standing on Leith shore, with her pistol and gold bullets, ready to shoot her son if he landed-to Isabel Weir, sitting silent and with covered face beside her husband's corpse-they were high-hearted women, those of the Covenanting times !-true, full of a noble simplicity, blended with yet a nobler guile-most disinterested in their attachment, most devoted to their principles, and equally brave and sagacious in the use of means in their husbands' or lovers' rescue or defence. Their ornaments were not of gold, or pearls, or costly array—the simple snood, the coif, the plaid, were their dress, but there was that within which passed show, and the enthusiasm which pervaded Scotland nowhere beat more powerfully than in the hearts of her daughters. Now, they concealed their husbands under beds, or in lumber-rooms, and then went out and firmly met the pursuers, and answered their questions. Now, when their husbands were away with their babes to be baptised at conventicles, and when the dragoons came in search, they filled the empty cradles with rags, and continued to rock them, lest the absence of the infants should awaken suspicions as to the errand of the parents. Now, like the immortal Bessie Maclure, in Scott, they sate at the turning of two ways, at the eventide, and warned the lonely fugitive that there was a lion in the path. Now, they assisted their husbands in scooping out hollow spots of refuge among the hills. Many a time and oft did they keep the midnight-fire burning in their cots, and have a midnight-morsel ready, that their husbands—cold, and wet, and hungry-might steal in and spend an hour or two, in trembling joy, at their own hearth-side. Often, when this was impossible, whenever the darkness fell, and the darker the better—and better still if the wind was loud, and the rain falling thick—did these gallant matrons lift up their small bundles of provisions, draw their plaids closely around them, and set out to visit the dark caverns, or pits, or the sides of the precipices, where their husbands were lurking, and feed and comfort them there. When tried by horrid tortures to reveal the spots of their retreat, they refused. When led out, as was often the case, to die beside them, they took it right joyfully. And many a drink of whey and piece of oat-cake did they, standing at the door of their dwellings, give, at the hazard of their own safety, to haggard wayfaring men, who were pursued by the voice of the blood of Magus Muir, or fleeing from the echo of the rout of Bothwell.
“ Honour to the memory of such noble daughters of Almighty God! No theatrical airs or meretricious graces about them. Never does any one of them, like Charlotte Corday, step out of woman's sphere and become a sublime assassin-nor, like Madame Roland, mingle a certain affectation and grimace with the grandeurs of a heroic death. They were as simple as they were great. Their characters seem modelled upon that of Scotland's scenery—their hearts were soft as its vales, while their principles were like its hills, bigh, firm, and unmoveable.”—Pp. 137, 138.
In contrast with the noble sufferers of the Covenant, we should like to give our author's delineation of their persecutors. We have only room for a sample of the powerfully sketched pictures which belong to this department of his gallery. Here is a little cabinet, including James VI. and the two Charleses; we could fain have copied, also, as a companion set, the sketches of their willing instruments, Montrose and Sharpe, Dalzell and Claverhouse, but in the want of room the latter may give place, as when living they would have sought to do, to their royal masters.
“One might imagine him to have formed himself, or been formed, upon the principle of entire and contemptuous contradiction to his father's character. James was pusilanimousCharles brave, at times even to rashness. James was fickle-Charles obstinate. James was pawky, as the Scotch call it-in Charles, prudence deepened into craft. James had a bonhommie, which propitiated his enemies—the cold and haughty manners of Charles were as repulsive as his temper was high and his principles arbitrary. James had learning without wisdom-Charles had taste, talent, and accomplishments. James was despised without being hated— Charles was detested and respected in equal proportions. James was very little of the king or Stewart, he was designed by nature for a rough-tongued, but kindly-hearted Scottish Dominie-great on longs and shorts, and never liking his scholars so well as when storming and wielding the lash in their midst-Charles, added the policy of an Italian prince and the hauteur of a Spanish hidalgo to the hot-blooded pride of a Highland chieftain. In three respects only they resembled each other, namely, in disregard to truth, in high estimate of their royal prerogative, and in aversion to all dissent, whether in politics or in religion. Each, however, expressed the two last in his own particular way. James in testy and irregular bursts, and Charles by a steady, cumulative system of attack, like a serpent sliding along his brilliant and deadly path, through the bushes to his prey.”—P. 25.
“We said, that Charles I. seemed made in contradiction to his father, Charles II., the express opposite of his. There was only one quality in common with the three, and that was falsehood-an element which, indeed, has run like a current of scrofula through the blood of most kings. In James it wore a veil of bonhommie ; in Charles I. of pride and outward show of virtue. In Charles II. it was more deeply disguised, under light and careless manners. He was a villain, wearing at one time the cap and bells of a fool; at another, the masque of a comic actor; and, at a third, making his profligacy the cover for a deeper and more malignant wickedness. Belief, hope, virtue, enthusiasm, Christianity, were words to him, and nothing more: he could syllable them deftly when it suited his purpose, but he had no belief in their existence, nor even in the reality of any other person's belief in them. This should be his epitaph : “He was the most profligate of men, and his profligacy was the best thing about him; at least, the most sincere. His very clinging to Popery in death was a last trick, a clumsy attempt to cheat the devil, who was quite competent, however, to attend to bis own interests.'"--P. 42.
Mr Gilfillan's work abounds with such portraitures of the leading men of that era. Indeed, this character-painting is the characteristic feature of the work, and in our view constitutes its peculiar value. The author knows where his strength lies, and he uses it with a playful ease which is sure to arrest and gratify attention. Wherever a man of note starts up to view in the course of his narrative, illustration, or disquisition, there and then the apparition is arrested till Mr Gilfllan have taken off, in a few telling strokes, the vera effigies. In this way, he has not only given us pictures of Cromwell, Leighton, Binning, Rutherford, and many more, because they shared in promoting the second Scottish Reformation ; but he sketches also Bishop Burnet, Howie of Lochgoin, and other authors, because they subsequently wrote about it ; Allan Ramsay, Ferguson, and Burns, because they were Scottish bards, and did not write about it; and specially Professor Wilson, because he ought to have written about it, and has not. A chapter of rich original and striking interest is devoted to a discussion of the treatment the Covenanters have received in after-tim from both friends and foes-particularly from Sir Walter Scott, in his historical romances, and Professor Aytoun, in his
Lays of the Scottish Cavaliers.” The concluding chapter is one of great power, and of thoroughly practical value, illustrating, as deductions from the history and character of the Covenanters the folly of persecution—the power of deep religious belief—the rich influence of adversity_tendencies of dominant churches—Erastianism and priestly domination—impossibility of adjusting by alliance the claims of church and state.
Were we to measure the length of our notice of this work by our opinion of its merits, we should not so soon bring these remarks to a close. "But as the book is not less popular in its price than in the nature of its subject, and the manner in which that subject is treated, it will soon, we have no doubt, be in the hands of almost every reader of the “United Presbyterian Magazine." To give further extracts from it would therefore be a work of supererogation. It has already we understand, been circulated in thousands; and we venture to say that this is but the beginning of a wide and increasing popularity. Especially south the Tweed, from the name of the author, and the auspices under which the publication appears, it will do more than any work which has yet been written to make our Scottish worthies known and appreciated by liberal-minded Christians. And both for our English brethren and ourselves, it is important for the interests of vital religion that the churches be brought more closely than they have been into contact with the spirit of the Covenanters. To be confronted with the giants of those daysto look them in the face, and see their resolute determination to maintain their convictions of the truth of God, in spite of all that men could do to them—is of great moment in this our day, when sacrifices which, compared with theirs, are as a man's little finger compared with his father's loins, are made so much of by Christians of whom it would be uncharitable not to hope well. We have begun, now-a-days, to plume ourselves in comparison of our ancestors, on the fact that for the last fifty years some small portion of the property belonging to professing Christians is used in extending the knowledge of Christ among the heathen; and if a member of the Christian church give any considerable proportion of his
ealth, or exile himself to a barbarous country for the sake of maintaining or spreading the Gospel, he is a man wondered at, as a rare specimen of Christian zeal. Alas! how changed from the time when, not in a few instances, but in large numbers, the Christians of Scotland suffered confiscation and imprisonment, banishment and death, that they might uphold the banner of the cross !
While in the course of penning the foregoing paragraph, our eye has caught in a London paper, the “Patriot,” the following « Sonnet addressed to George Gilfillan,” in reference, apparently, to the volume now under review. We copy it as an apposite conclusion to our remarks:
6 Thou more than critic, thou poetic sage,
Who scann'st the sons of genius from afar,
In that fair galaxy of every star,
With reverent awe those noble heights to climb,
Resounding through the solemn depths of time.
Tuning thy harp to their majestic lays;
And while thou sunn'st thy spirit in His rays,
Raisest thine anthem to His lofty praise."
FRIENDLY SOCIETY OF DISSENTING MINISTERS.
To many of our readers this society is well known, and to most of them, connected as they are with ministers and their families, it will be interesting as well as satisfactory to learn, that its affairs are in a highly prosperous condition, and that some very important improvements have lately been made on its constitution. During last year the periodical investigation into its affairs has been made; and a printed copy of the Actuary's Report, together with the Annual Report of the Society, are now before us. From the latter, we observe that the accumulated fund now amounts to the large sum of L.33,439,--and that the number of widows on the roll is nearly 90. The amount paid to widows since the commencement of the society, has been no less than L.57,000, some of them having drawn considerably more than L.1000 each. The Actuary's Report is interesting, and will amply repay a perusal. Did our space permit, we would willingly quote largely from it. We must content ourselves, however, by giving only a single sentence, referring our readers to the report itself, copies of which can readily be procured from the office-bearers. After giving a view of the funds and engagements, the Actuary says,—“ The result thus exhibited is a highly satisfactory one. After making full provision for future marriages, and an addition by way of guarantee to the present widows' annuities, there is shown to be a surplus to the amount, in present value, of upwards of L:2000. At the former investigation, the reporter, while expressing his confidence that the funds of the society were sufficient, but not more than sufficient, to meet its engagements, stated that, if such a guarantee were then added to the annuities, there would be a deficiency of about L. 1000. Taking into account the higher relative allowance now made for charges of management, it appears that the fund has improved during the last eleven years by upwards of L.3500.” It is refreshing to find, on such unquestionable authority, that a society which is, and has been, productive of such extensive usefulness, is in such a healthy and improving condition.
Under the advice of the Actuary, and actuated in some degree, doubtless, by their prosperous circumstances, the society have agreed that the benefit of the fund shall be extended to the orphan children of members, by giving them, where no widow is left, or continuing to them after her decease, the same annuity as she would have been entitled to, so long as any of them are under sixteen years of age. And it has been further agreed, that members shall be entitled, at any time, either at once to redeem their whole future annual rates, or to have them commuted into an annual payment to cease at the age 60, or 65, as they may wish. The rules, as thus altered and amended, have accordingly been submitted to the Registrar of Friendly Societies, and have been confirmed and certified by him.
It is not our province as journalists to offer any opinion as to the respective claims of this society, and of the sister society of the Relief Synod. Their objects are alike, and each, doubtless, has its peculiar advantages. Both have been the means of effecting much good ; and it is more than probable, from what we know of the sentiments of the respective members of each, that in a very few years they will be united, and form but one society. This much, however, we must be permitted to say, that every minister of the United Presbyterian Church ought to make it a first duty to provide for his wife and family, in one form or other; and that he will find on inquiry, that by no form of assurance can he purchase greater, or even equal benefits, on such favourable terms, as he can secure by joining one or other of the “ Friendly Societies” of which so many of his brethren are, and have been members; and which have been already the means of contributing so largely to the comfortable maintenance of so many of their widows and families. Had these societies been supported by our clergy to the extent they deserved, their funds would, ere now, have been able to afford as large an increase to the widows' annuities, as any similar scheme in the country, and a little more of the esprit de corps which animates the Free Church, would in this respect be of incalculable value to the body.
ON PURITY OF COMMUNION. Roman historians trace the loss of their national liberties, and the ultimate ruin of their country, to the loss of that primitive simplicity of manners, good faith, and piety, which characterised their ancestors during many ages. While these virtues were maintained they prospered, triumphed over all their enemies, and rose into à mighty empire—the greatest that ever existed in the world ; but when they lost these their virtues, and bad faith, impiety, and general corruption of manners prevailed, they declined and fell as a nation. This moral declension, like some fatal distempers, was so gradual and insidious, that it acquired irresistible force before exciting alarm, when all their attempts to check it and prevent their ruin were vain.
These remarks are not inapplicable to Christian churches, many of which, though at one time eminent for piety, love, zeal, and good works, have, by conformity to the world and relaxation of discipline, lost their ancient purity, and along with it their prosperity, and even their very existence. You read in Scripture and ecclesiastical history of many flourishing churches, which you will now search for in vain on the face of the earth. Where now are the churches of North Africa, of Palestine, Antioch, abylon, and other countries of Asia ? In what state are the churches to which the epistles of Paul were originally addressed ? and the seven churches of Asia ? Either annihilated, or so feeble and so corrupted as to be in a state equivalent to death. What is the reason of their decline or extirpation? It may be said by those who look only to second causes, that they have perished by the fate of war, and were involved in the destruction of the city or nation to which they belonged, by conquerors who sacrificed them to their ambition. Such, however, as acknowledge the general providence of God over the nations, and his special providence over the church, will ascribe their ruin to their own unfaithfulness or decline in piety. Had these churches remained steadfast and faithful, would they not have been preserved as Israel in Egypt and Canaan while they remained steadfast and faithful ? “For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour. I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee. Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee, therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy
The epistles to the seven churches demonstrate the special interest Christ takes in the church-that they are commended, encouraged, and comforted according to their faithfulness, and reproved and threatened according to their un
faithfulness and that they who repent and do their first works, or who persevere in fidelity, shall be honoured and blessed ; while they who have not only fallen from their first love, but persist in their decline, and become lukewarm, shall be given up by Christ, who has all power in heaven and earth, to destruction, and cast from Him with loathing. “He that hath ears to hear let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”
Purity of communion is an important means of checking declension, and elevating the character of churches. For, though it is not identical with spiritual life, yet, when maintained in a right spirit, it is conducive to that life, and is preventive of its decay. Purity of church fellowship or communion is so difficult a subject, both in theory and practice, that nothing but a deep sense of its transcendant importance would have induced me to solicit the attention of your readers to it—which I do with sincere diffidence.
By purity of communion, I do not mean perfect communion, for how can the fellowship of imperfect beings, as all Christians are in this world, be perfect ? Nor do I mean by it the communion of saints, or that none should be admitted to the visible church, nor retained in it, but saints. None, indeed, can without saintship honestly offer themselves to church fellowship, but they cannot be refused admission for the want of it; for God alone can judge the heart. Deceivers can counterfeit saintship. God himself admitted many members of the Jewish church whose hearts were unsanctified. John the Baptist and the apostles required no more than outward appearances of faith and repentance, in order to baptism. Many admitted members of the primitive churches were unregenerated. Christ compares the gospel church to a floor on which corn and chaff are mingled together, to a net in which good and bad are gathered.*
Still, however, there must be an appearance of piety, or a credible profession of faith and repentance, in order to warrant the admission of persons to the communion of the church, or their retention in it. A celebrated divine has said, and the sentiment has received very extensive approbation—that every citizen is a member of the church, as every member of the church is a citizen. Many who disclaim this horrid and blasphemous sentiment, which is the theory, if not always the practice, of a state church, yet entertain very unscriptural notions on the subject of church communion, by representing the sacraments as converting, rather than sealing ordinances, possibly from some confused notions of the opus operatum,—and by admitting to the fellowship of the church, persons who have no appearance of faith and repentance, but the reverse. Instead, however, of entering into controversy with any parties, or discussing this subject in a controversial spirit, let us endeavour to establish our own minds in the truth we profess to know and acknowledge.
Purity of communion is necessary, from the nature and constitution of the church. The true church is a society of persons called out of the world by the grace of God, born again, possessed of genuine faith and repentance, with all other holy principles, and are followers of Christ. The visible church consists of those who make a profession of faith and repentance, and devotement to Christ, with their children, out of which there is no possibility of salvation.t It has also been described as á congregation of faithful (believing ?) men, in which the true word of God is preached, and the sacraments are duly administered according to Christ's ordinances, in all things that of necessity are requisite to the same. I Now, although some do make a false profession of religion, and yet sustain a fair character before men, like Judas and other hypocrites; yet it is evident, that as an individual whose religion consists of profession without principle, or the form of godliness while he denies the power thereof, is no Christian ;—so the visible church that consists entirely of mere professors, without any true believer among its members, is not in reality a church of Christ at all. And it is equally evident, that if the believers in the communion of a church be few in proportion to the number of unbelievers, or unconverted men, it is a very corrupt church, and, unless it repent, must, according to the epistles to the seven churches, be near to destruction. This may * Buck's Theological Dictionary.
+ Westminster Confession. I Articles of Church of England.