Scotland's History, Legends, Wildlife and Hunting Practices...because the past lives in us and guides our footsteps.






UNCAN MATHESON was born at Huntly, in
Aberdeenshire, on the 22nd day of November,
1824. This little inland town, some of my readers
may not know, is the capital of Strathbogie, a
district now famous in the ecclesiastical history of Scotland
as the scene of a fierce conflict, some thirty years ago,
between the church and the civil power. The fame of that
struggle has sounded far beyond the shores of Scotland,
and its issues are constantly growing more momentous with
the revolving years.

Neither the village nor the adjacent country presents
features very striking or interesting. The soil is not of a
generous nature; but its sons have developed the sturdiest
manhood in its subjugation and culture. The climate,
rigorously stern, is often in winter of arctic severity; but the
keen biting winds seem only to have sharpened the people‘s
wits ; the gloomy sky if it has made them dour has helped
to make them sober-minded, and battling with storms and
drifting snows has proved a good training for the battle of
life. Bannocks of oatmeal and bickers of porridge, together
with early and successful contendings with that great army
of strong truths whose leader presents to every young Scot


2                                     HIS PARENTS.

this memorable challenge, “What is the chief end of man?”
have contributed not a little in raising up generations of
strong, free men, able to push their way and hold their own
anywhere in the world. In fact, hard work, coarse but
wholesome fare, a severe climate, the Bible, the church,
the school, and the catechism, have conspired to develop in
them the tougher elements of the Scottish character. The
inhabitants of that north-eastern province are as hard as
their native granite, as stern as their own winter, and of a
spirit as independent as the winds that play on the summit
of their lofty Benachee. In short, the people of Huntly are
Aberdonians of the most Aberdonian type. Shrewd, hard-
headed, rough-grained, having ever a keen eye to the main
chance, and not to be overcome by force or over­reached by
fraud, they are a people pre-eminently canny and Scotch.

In one of the plain homely dwellings, of which the
Huntly of that day was almost entirely composed, the subject
of this memoir first saw the light. His parents belonged to
that better class of the common people whose intelligence,
industry, thrift, God­fearing uprightness, and honest pride,
have contributed so much to the prosperity and glory of
their country. From his father, a Ross-shire man, con­
nected with a family of some note in that county, young
Matheson inherited the Celtic fire which fused all his powers
into one great passion; whilst from his mother he seemed
to derive the strong good sense, the irrepressible wit, and
boundless generosity, that were among his chief character­
istics. To his mother indeed, as in the case of many other
men who in their day have been powerful workers of good
and uncompromising enemies of evil, the boy, the man,
and the Christian, owed more than pen and ink can set
forth. Her loving and fervent spirit, her wise and gracious
ways, impressed and captivated the warm-hearted and in­
genuous boy ; her prayers issued in his conversion after her
gentle head had been pillowed among the clods ; and her
lovely memory glowing in his fancy became a force, not
the less mighty for its gentleness, throughout his life. So
true-hearted mothers often live in their strong sons, the
little quiet rivulet somehow begetting the great broad river.
Strong-willed and even. wayward as was the boy, he loved
and reverenced his mother with singular devotion.




The father, who for nearly thirty years occupied the
humble but honourable post of mail-runner between Huntly
and Banff, enjoyed but a slender income; and it needed all
the diligence and thrift of the mother to keep the house
and five little children above want. They had their pinch­
ing times; but pinching times have done much, under God,
to develop the real strength of Scottish character. In after
years, when Duncan Matheson had taken up his father
Colin’s business of mail-runner, with this difference, that
the son carried letters for another King, even Christ, and
ran upon a longer line than the Banff and Huntly road,
often did he remember how “ his poor dear mother used to
sit till midnight mending and making their clothes, and yet
the beggar was never sent empty from the door.” Sometimes
the brave little heart gave way, and the child covering his
face with the bedclothes would sob, and long for the time
when he should be able to aid his mother in the struggles
of life. One day coming into possession of a small piece
of money, earned by running a message for a neighbour, he
took his stand at the window of a little shop, which seemed
to embrace in its contents all that was desirable on earth,
and there meditated a purchase. The ginger­bread men
riding on ginger­bread horses did not much tempt him; nor
was he overcome by the little shining clasp-knife, so dear
to the heart of boys. Remembering his mother, he invested
his money in tea. Hastening home, he secretly deposited
his purchase in the cupboard, and watched till he obtained
a full reward in the glad surprise of his parent on finding
her empty store thus unexpectedly and mysteriously re­

The lad was sent early to school, where he made rapid
progress, his love of books being fostered by frequent con­
tact with the teacher, who lodged in the house of the
Mathesons. In those days there were two schools in
Huntly, the parish school and an adventure school, be­
tween which there was a perpetual feud. Almost daily the
boys met in battle, and young Matheson, whose martial
spirit was thus early stirred, took an eager part in the fray.
The school of that time wore an air of awful sternness and
solemnity. The thong was real master. The impression
made by the opening prayer was too often sadly undone by

B 2


impression of the leather, as it fell with unmitigated seve­
rity on the tortured fingers of some little rebel. Strange
scenes, the result probably of that undue severity of govern­
ment, were sometimes witnessed in the school of those days.
A stream of water having been turned one day from a
neighbouring lane into the schoolroom, the master pro­
ceeded as a matter of course to find out the author of the
mischief. Young Matheson was unjustly charged, the real
criminal having turned false witness; and loud protestations
of innocence notwithstanding, Duncan must be flogged.
Here the authority of the master failed. The lad’s sense of
innocence, stimulated by some other feeling not quite akin
to innocence, roused him to self-defence ; and amidst the
cheers of the whole school the scholar beat the master, and
reduced him to the necessity of a truce.

The master, who was an earnest Christian and a preacher
of the gospel, did his duty faithfully and well; and Duncan
Matheson never ceased to speak of him with feelings of
deepest gratitude and esteem. The pains taken by the
teacher to polish that rough but genuine Cairngorm were
not thrown away.

In the matter of religion it was not a good time in those
northern parts. Moderatism, which means a religion without
earnestness, a form without life, and a gospel without grace,
cast its deadly shadow over many a parish. Light, indeed,
was beginning to dawn, the spirit that moved Chalmers was
abroad, and when rare opportunity afforded men were
listening to the ancient story of the cross as if it were a
new thing. As yet, however, it was only dim dawn. Strange
doctrines were given forth from the pulpit of many a parish
church. One taught the people that if they paid their debts
and lived a quiet life they were sure of reaching heaven.
His brother in the neighbouring parish declared, on the
other hand, that nobody can attain to assurance of salvation
until the day of judgment, and that the children of God
generally die under a cloud,—a doctrine he clenched with
the scripture, “Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth.”
A third publicly stigmatized praying people as hypocrites.
A fourth acknowledged his dislike of preaching by calling
Sabbath “the hanging day.” Another apologised to his
audience for having once used “ that offensive and unpolite


expression hell” Several of these pastors were famous for
their skill in agriculture; but while they kept a well-stocked
farm­yard, their scanty supply of sermons grew more dry
and mouldy year by year. The preaching was no more
likely to awaken a slumbering congregation, than was the
chirping of sparrows in the hedge to arouse the still, sad
sleepers in the neighbouring kirkyard. A clear, full state­
ment of “the finished work” of Jesus, as the one only and
all-sufficient substitute and sin-bearer, was seldom heard. As
for the grace of the Holy Spirit the people were no more
taught to expect comfort from his fellowship than from the
wind howling among the forest trees. In a certain parish
contiguous to the district in which our missionary laboured,
the minister was one day catechising the people, and put to
a woman, noted for the then rare qualities of earnestness
and zeal, the question, “ How many persons are there in
the Godhead ?“ To the astonishment of all present she
replied, “There are two persons in the Godhead, the Father
and the Son.” Again the minister put the question, and
this time with a caution. The same answer was given.
“ You see,” said the parson, turning pompously to his elders,
and glancing round upon the people, “ you see what comes
of high-flown zeal and hypocritical pretence. This woman
thinks to teach others, and herself is more ignorant than a
child. What gross ignorance ! Woman, don‘t you know
that the correct answer is, “ There are three persons in the
Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,” &c.
“Sir,” replied the woman, “I ken verra weel that the
catechism says sae. But whether am I to believe, the cate­
chism or yersel’ ? We hear you name the Father, an’ some­
times, but nae aften ye mak mention o‘ the Son; but wha
ever heerd you speak aboot the Holy Ghost? ’Deed,
sir, ye never sae muckle as tauld us whether there be ony
Holy Ghost, lat alane oor need o’ his grace.” The minister
stood rebuked ; and the people went away home to discuss
and think.

The Lord’s flock was scattered on the dark mountains.
Some were wandering in a wilderness of perplexity; some
were sticking fast in the quagmire of earthliness; some
were ready to perish in deep pits of deadly error; and sad
were the bleatings of the sheep and the lambs as they

6                               GEORGE COWIE.

pined away in want. Meanwhile the description of un­
faithful shepherds given by the prophet Isaiah was realised
to the letter. “ His watchmen are blind : they are all
ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleep­
ing, lying down, loving to slumber. Yea, they are greedy
dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds
that cannot understand: they all look to their own way,
every one for his gain, from his quarter. Come ye, say they,
I will fetch wine, and we will fill ourselves with strong
drink ; and to­morrow shall be as this day, and much more
abundant.” (Isaiah lvi. 10-12.)

But amidst the Egyptian darkness there was a people
who had light in their dwellings. These were chiefly
Seceders and Independents. Amongst the godly Dissenters
there arose at this time a notable preacher, Mr. George
Cowie, grand-uncle of Duncan Matheson. He was a man of
rare humour, great force of character, and unbounded zeal;
qualities in which his relative, the subject of this memoir,
strikingly resembled him. Cowie was both pastor and
evangelist. When he began his work in Huntly, where he
was ordained as pastor of the Secession Church, he received
a baptism of reproach and persecution. The haters of
evangelical truth mobbed and pelted him; but he took all
meekly, and though well-nigh blinded by showers of dirt
and rotten eggs, he turned to his little band of followers
and bravely said, “ Courage, friends, courage! Pray on;
the devil is losing ground.”

Many who thirsted for the gospel came from distant
parishes to hear this bold witness for the truth. On Sabbath
morning you could see them gather on their way to Huntly;
one from yonder turf cot in the midst of a wilderness of
peat moss, where the only sign of life is the smoke curling
to the sky; another from a little farm recently reclaimed
from a marshy waste which anywhere out of Scotland
would be regarded as an eternal morass; and a third from
down a lonely glen where silence is seldom broken save by
the cry of the wild bird. Thus they gather from their native
mists in search of light,—broad-shouldered men with blue
bonnet and plaid, thoughtful matrons with Bible and Psalm-
book wrapt in clean white handkerchief, and neatly-dressed
maidens, light-stepping but modest; and as they journey



together they talk of the things that concern the King.
Reaching a little well at the wayside they sit down and
refresh themselves. They need this rest, for they have come
a long journey, some five miles, some ten, and some even
fifteen. A drink from the well is followed by a draught of
the pure water of life. With the blue heavens for a canopy,
the green earth for a carpet, and the little birds for a choir,
they worship God in that great temple of nature in which
the religion of Scotland has oftentimes been baptised with
the blood of her children. They sing the twenty-third Psalm.
In grave, sweet melody their hearts go up to heaven in
mingled exercise of faith, hope, and charity, as they repeat
the most familiar of Scottish household words :

“The Lord’s my shepherd; I’ll not want;
He makes me down to lie
In pastures green; He leadeth me
The quiet waters by.”

To some of those God-fearers the song is a matter of faith
rather than of feeling. To others it is a spring of hope and
expectation, whilst in some hearts it stirs joy and love. There
are those too who as yet knowing not conscious faith, or
hope, or love, or joy, dimly discern the beauty of this holy,
blessed, childlike worship, and secretly desire, almost with­
out perceiving in themselves the desire, to know the happ
ness of that people whose God is the Lord.

When the Psalm is sung all heads are bent and a prayer
follows—such a prayer as we have heard among the heather
on a hill­side : “ O God, oor souls are jist as dry as the
heather: oor herts are as hard as the granite stane : but
Thou that gi’est the draps o’ dew to the heather, gie us the
drappins o’ thy grace this day, and let thy ain love licht
upon oor hard herts like the birdie sittin’ singin’ on the
rock yonner ; an’ fill the souls o’ thy fowk this day wi’
peace and joy till they’re rinnin’ o’er like the water-spout on
the brae. Lord, it ’11 be nae loss to you, an’ it ’ll be a grand
bargain for us, an’ we’ll mind ye on’t tae a’ eternity. Amen.”

The Haldanes were at this time engaged in their noble
evangelistic labours. Mr. Cowie permitted James Hal-
dane to occupy his pulpit, whilst himself remained at the
door to listen. At the close of the service the minister,

8                               ROWLAND HILL.

convinced that God was with the lay-preacher, rushed into
the church and invited the people to return in the evening
and again hear the stranger. For this encouragement given
to an evangelist manifestly heaven-sent, Cowie was thrust
out of the Secession. But he was not the man to be silenced.
His faith and zeal rose to the occasion : he went on preach­
ing and labouring for souls as he had never done before, and
the result was the formation of an Independent Church.
The light spread. The torch was rudely shaken, but the
flame rose upon the night, and many afar off wondered and
came to see. In barns and out-of-the-way places meetings
were held; and often in the open air the manly voice of
George Cowie was heard calling sinners to the Saviour in
terms he loved to repeat,—“ There is life for a look ! there
is life for a look ! “

This faithful servant of God was consumed with zeal. He
was sometimes so overpowered with a sense of the value of
souls that he needed to be supported by the elders as he
went from the vestry to the pulpit. Blessed, surely, are
such ministers, and highly favoured the people who enjoy
their ministry ! Speaking of preaching, Mr. Cowie used to
say, “Go direct to conscience, and in every sermon take
your hearers to the judgment ­seat.” One day a preacher,
who occupied his place, spoke as if the Holy Spirit was not
needed by either saint or sinner. At the close of the service,
Cowie stood up on the pulpit steps, and solemnly said,
" Sirs, haud in wi’ your auld freen, the Holy Ghost, for if ye
ance grieve Him awa, ye’ll nae get Him back sae easy.”

Here Mr. Rowland Hill used to preach with all his wonted
dash and power. At a diet of catechising, a method of
teaching to which some of the most valuable and charac­
teristic elements of the old Scottish religion were due, the
English evangelist was present and put a few simple ques­
tions. The answers were promptly and correctly given with
the superadded request of an old man, “ Gang deeper, sir,
gang deeper.” Mr. Hill having expressed his satisfaction
with the results of the examination, the aged enquirer asked
and obtained permission to put a question. “ Sir,” said he
to Mr. Hill, “can ye reconcile the universal call o’ the
gospel wi’ the doctrine o’ a particler eleck?” In reply Mr.
Hill frankly admitted that while he held both the doctrine



of election and the universal call, he was unable to solve the
theological problem proposed by the grey-headed enquirer.

Mr. Cowie exhibited fine tact in dealing with men. “ One
of his attached hearers was the wife of a wealthy farmer,
who, after weeping and praying in vain for her ungodly
husband, brought her grief before her pastor, whose preach­
ing she could by no persuasion induce him to hear. After
listening to the case, which seemed quite inaccessible, he
enquired, ‘ Is there anything your good man has a liking
to?’ ‘He heeds for nothing in this world,’ was the reply,
‘ forbye his beasts and his siller, an’ it be na his fiddle.’ The
hint was enough : the minister soon found his way to the
farm-house, where after a dry reception, and kindly enquiries
about cattle and corn, he awoke the farmer’s feelings on the
subject of his favourite pastime. The fiddle was produced,
and the man of earth was astonished and charmed with the
sweet music it gave forth in the hands of the feared and
hated man of God. The minister next induced him to pro­
mise to return his call, by the offered treat of a finer instru­
ment in his own house, where he was delighted with the
swelling tones of a large violin, and needed then but slight
persuasion from his wife to accompany her and hear his
friend preach. The word took effect in conviction and sal­
vation ; and the grovelling earth-worm was transformed into
a free hearted son of God, full of the lively hope of the great
inheritance above. "*

This good and faithful servant of Jesus Christ, loved and
honoured over a wide extent of country, died and left
behind him the precious legacy of many spiritual children
bearing the likeness of his own hearty, thorough, downright
Christian character. Thousands followed his body to the
grave, and on his tombstone were inscribed the words of
the prophet Daniel, “ They that be wise shall shine as the
brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to
righteousness, as the stars for ever and ever.” In after
years his grand-nephew, Duncan Matheson, when newly
ushered into the marvellous light of the gospel, used to
kneel beside the grave in the silence and solitude of night,
and cry mightily to heaven, praying that the mantle of his

* Life and Letters of Elizabeth, last Duchess of Gordon. By the Rev.
A. Moody Stuart.



venerated relative might fall upon him, and that the words
of the prophet might be illustrated in him also. That prayer
was abundantly answered.

We are strangely linked to the past; its traditions, es­
pecially such as come to us through the channel of flesh
and blood, go far to make us what we are. Though the
Matheson family were connected with the Established
Church, they had strong leanings to the godly Dissenters ;
and in his early life Duncan drank in the story and teaching
of his uncle from his mother’s lips. The banner which
dropped from the hands of George Cowie was taken up
and nobly sustained by Mr. Hill, the pastor of the Inde­
pendent Church, and Mr. Millar, the minister of the Seces­
sion, faithful servants of Jesus Christ, whose indefatigable
labours prepared the ground for the wider sowing and richer
harvest of our time. One day the worthy pastor of the
Independent Church laid his hand upon the head of the
boisterously frank and manly boy as he romped on the
street, and bestowed upon him a prayerful blessing. Did
the man of God see in young Matheson a second George
Cowie, and even then separate the lad unto the gospel of
Christ by the laying on of believing hands? There are
foretokens of a man’s future that find no place in our
philosophy. At any rate the susceptible heart of the boy
was thus impressed, and he used to follow the godly minis­
ter upon the street with a curious and wondering reverence.
Throughout life he never forgot the gentle hand laid upon
his head—the blessing and the prayer.

From infancy up through boyhood the good angel of
conviction never ceased to follow Duncan Matheson.
Sometimes there is a lull of unholy peace; then comes a
disturbed period when the gracious Spirit strives with the
rebel heart. Now he seems near the kingdom of God ;
suddenly a back-wave of temptation carries him anew into
the deep. Frequently he is all but overcome by the draw­
ings of invisible love; but as yet young flesh and blood
prove too strong for these gentle touches of grace. One
evening he is passing along the street and hears the sound
of praise issuing from a cottage where a prayer-meeting is
in progress. A good impulse carries him to the window.
Peering in at a chink, he sees the faces of the company

ONE WHO CARED FOR HIS SOUL.                 11

brightened up by no ordinary radiance, and as he listens
he hears their glad voices singing,

"0 greatly bless‘d the people are
The joyful sound that know;
In brightness of thy face, O Lord,
They ever on shall go. "

His heart is touched ; he wishes he were amongst them to
share their joy; but like one who would purchase a pearl
were it not for the greatness of the price, he goes away
with nothing but vague longings and hesitating resolves.
These feelings do not last long; they are but the morning
cloud and early dew. Next day he is a very ringleader in
persecuting the children of the saints, whom he mocks and
calls by opprobrious names.

A special interest was taken in young Matheson‘s spiritual
welfare by James Maitland, an aged Christian and a con­
vert of Mr. Cowie’s. This old disciple was always ready in
his own quaint and homely way to testify to the truth and
grace of God. When a shallow theorist one day attempted
to make the way into the kingdom of heaven easy to the
flesh, James said, “ I ken verra weel that a human faith can
receive a human testimony ; but, man, dinna ye ken it needs
a divine faith to receive a divine testimony.” To another
who paid him a compliment for his Christian worth, he
replied, “I sometimes wonner if I’m a Christian at a‘; for
ye ken we ocht to lay doon our lives for the brithren, but I
can hardly bring mysel’ to like the cross-grained anes.” He
kept an eye on the young people of the place, and his wise,
loving counsels were not in vain. To a lad about to leave
the town he said, “ Young man, you are like a ship going to
sea without compass or helm.” These words led to his
conversion. Maitland‘s heart was much drawn to Duncan
Matheson, in whom he could discern not a little of the
natural character of his minister and spiritual father. Dun­
can strove hard to keep out of the old man’s way, but being
sent on an errand one day to Maitland’s house he was fairly
caught. James shut the door on himself and the boy, and
began to tell him the story of Mr. Cowie’s conversion. This
done he brought the conversation to a practical bearing by
asking the lad about his soul’s case. The answer was un­



Then followed homely tender words about “ God’s won-
nerfu’ love to sinners,’’ and “ the warm hert o’ Jesus yirnin’
to save,” and “ the kind Spirit strivin’ wi’ a’ his micht,” with
solemn remonstrance as well as touching appeal, not with­
out some effect, since conscience was all on James‘s side,
Duncan went away very unhappy. The hour of decision
indeed had not yet arrived; but one gun on the rampart
of unbelief had been spiked. The impression made by
Maitland’s faithful words and tender dealings was never
wholly lost.

Speaking of this period he says, “ My conscience often
pricked me, and if the thunder rolled I went to prayer. I
knew only the Lord‘s prayer, and used it as an incantation
to ward off evil. If I saw a funeral I trembled, and
thoughts of judgment pressed hard upon me.” One even­
ing his mother, who instead of always speaking directly to
her children about salvation, wisely followed the method of
reading aloud from some interesting book, had fallen upon
a well ­known illustration of the endlessness of eternity.
Suppose a little bird comes once in a thousand years and
carries away a particle of dust from yon lofty mountain,
how vast a number of years must elapse ere the huge mass
has been entirely removed ! And yet when those countless
myriads of years have come and gone, eternity will be no
nearer an end than it was at first. What, then, will be the
misery of the lost in the place where their worm dieth not,
and the fire is not quenched? Such was the impression
made upon the boy‘s mind that he could not sleep, and
spent a great part of the night in weeping. The germ of
truth thus lodged by a mother’s hand in the heart of her
son was not lost. It did not indeed result in his immediate
conversion, but it took hold of his spirit, and by the bless­
ing of God became a great power in his soul ; for through­
out his entire Christian course one thought was never absent
from his view, one motive never ceased to work mightily in
his heart, one argument never failed to drop from his lips
with amazing power on the ears of thousands, and that was
the endlessness of eternity. Little did that mother dream of
the great work she was doing as she read the simple illus­
tration in the hearing of her boy. Little did she imagine
the vast harvest to be reaped from that seedling, and the



mighty forces that were being set in motion by so gentle a

The dread of future punishment held him in check, even
in his most lawless days. “ The eternity of it,” he says,
“more than anything else, awed me, and if I could have
persuaded myself that after thousands of years the torments
of hell should cease, I would have given full swing to my
evil heart, and more madly than I was even then doing
would have rushed on to eternal death.”

The death of his sister Ann, “a sweet, holy child, who
talked of Jesus with her latest breath,” drew the furrows of
conviction fresh and deep in his already well-ploughed
heart; and as he stood by the grave, “the dull muffled
sound of the clods dropping upon the coffin-lid seemed to
ring into his conscience this one word, Eternity.”

Sickness followed : it was another gentle messenger from
Him whose name is Love. Many thorns now vexed his
pillow; it was sovereign grace arousing him from his
dangerous sleep. A host of evils seemed to surround him;
it was a host of angels sent to shut him in and chase the
wanderer home. As yet he saw not the Saviour; he saw
only the clouds that are about his throne. The darkness
which he imagined revealed the Avenger concealed his
Redeemer, and the sounds that seemed to his awakened
conscience to be the roll of the chariot wheels of death,
were but the echoes of approaching salvation. Sometimes
he would bury his fears in the grave of good resolution,
and write upon the tombstone, “ By and by;” but from the
dead his convictions would arise with ghastly horror, and
then his wretchedness, overflowing its banks, would pour
itself out in wrathful torrents, making the whole house un­
happy and even afraid. They knew not the terrible conflict
that raged in his breast; they saw not the misery of the
maddened spirit wrestling with the Almighty, and heard not
the despairing cry, “Would God I had never been born !"

Before his mind’s eye one great truth now began to
appear in hazy outline. The absolute necessity of being
born again was beginning to fake hold of his thoughts.
It was a point gained—one step towards the light. Not
seldom did he pray God to convert him, though, like
Augustine, he was fain to add “not yet.” Some friends



perceiving his talents advised him to enter the University,
and offered him a bursary on condition of his studying for
the ministry—a course which his parents earnestly desired
him to follow; but he refused, saying with characteristic
frankness, “ A minister ought to be a converted and a holy
man. I am not that. I cannot do it.” When he and two
companions were urged to become members of the church,
straightforward as usual he replied, “ I am not converted,

and you know it. G------ is not converted, nor is D------.

We are on the brink, and you would push us over. You
would have us go to the Lord’s table in our sins, and then
on Sabbath evening you would pray for the unworthy com­
municants.” Turning to his companions he said, “Come
away;” and as he went out of the minister’s presence he
said to himself, “The whole thing is a sham. I may as
well be an infidel.” In all this there may have been a lack
of courtesy, and a little pride; but he had noticed the
unfaithfulness of certain pastors in the admission of young
communicants, and the sad effect on the communicants
themselves, who made a pillow of the Lord’s table for their
deadly slumbers, and his honest spirit rebelled against what
he believed to be an unholy sham.

The disruption of the Church of Scotland with its stirring
events drew near. Patronage was doing its evil work. The
conflict between the Church and the civil power was be­
coming more fierce and uncompromising. A minister was
thrust into the parish of Marnoch against the will of the
people. Duncan Matheson was present at the forced settle­
ment, and, young though he was, warmly sympathised with
the Christian flock, whose rights were thus trampled under
foot. The scene made a deep impression on his heart. But
not until he submitted himself to the Lord Jesus did he
rightly understand the great question of the time,—the in­
dependence of the Church, and the Crown rights of the
Saviour as her sole King and Head. At this time able and
faithful ministers of the gospel were sent down to Strathbogie,
the scene of conflict. The word was with great power. On
one occasion Mr. Moody Stuart preached a sermon on the
strait gate, which Duncan Matheson says was blessed to
many souls. On another occasion the Lord‘s Supper was dis­
pensed by Mr. Cumming, of Dunbarney, and Mr. M‘Cheyne,

GRIEVING THE SPIRIT.                          15

Dundee. The people met in the open air and sat upon the
grass listening to the word. In the afternoon the sky dark­
ened, and the thunder pealing overhead added an awful so­
lemnity to the service. In the evening Robert M‘Cheyne
preached with “ Eternity stamped upon his brow.” “I think
I can yet see his seraphic countenance,” says Matheson,
“and hear his sweet and tender voice. I was spell­bound,
and could not keep my eyes off him for a moment. He
announced his text, — Paul’s thorn in the flesh. What a
sermon ! I trembled, and never felt God so near. His ap­
peals went to my heart, and as he spoke of the last great
day in the darkening twilight, for once I began to pray. At
the close he invited all those who were anxious to retire to
the chapel. Here began a tremendous struggle in my heart,
a struggle I can recall as if it had been but yesterday. I

looked to see if my special friend D. McP------was going

in, but I could see him nowhere. He afterwards told me
he was looking for me with a like desire. Were he to go
In, I would. Were he to be a Christian, I would. Slowly I
went through the darkness, and reached the chapel, with the
words, ‘ Quench not the Spirit,’ ringing in my ears. I looked
in at the window and saw many there I knew. I hesitated :
I approached the door and looked in. Hastily I turned
back. The die was cast. The tempter whispered, ‘Another
time.’ Alas ! alas !

‘I chose the world and on endless shroud.’

Oh the long-suffering of God ! Then and there how justly
might God have said, ‘Let him alone.’ I deserved it. I
was near the kingdom: I stood trembling on the threshold :
I did not enter in. My case should lead no one to presume,
not one in thousands, perhaps, in such a state as mine was,
—trifling with God—is ever saved. It is a solemn thing to
say to­morrow when God says to­day; for man’s to­morrow
and God’s to­day never meet. The word that comes from
the eternal throne is now, and it is a man’s own choice that
fixes his doom.”

After this grieving of the Holy Ghost, Duncan Matheson
tried hard “to forget all about eternity, and took to novel-
reading.” For a season he seemed to be too successful: he
was intoxicated with the vanities of fiction, and plunged


into all but utter oblivion of God. It was probably owing
to this sad experience that he never ceased to deplore the
injurious effect of novel-reading on the minds and hearts of
the young, and to denounce in no measured terms the con­
duct of Christians and ministers who give too great encour­
agement to indulgence in the sensational literature of our
day. He once found a trashy work of fiction on the pillow
of a dying person. No marvel, then, if he spoke strongly of
the evil. From Dreamland into Eternity—what a transition !

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