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Memoir of the Rev James MacGregor D.D.
Chapter III. - From his Licensure till his arrival in Nova Scotia
1784 - 1786


“Go ye therefore and teach all nations,—and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”—Matt, xxviii. 19, 20.

Having completed the usual course of Theological study and performed the usual exercises prescribed as trials, he was duly licensed to preach the gospel, we cannot exactly ascertain at what date, but it must have been about the year 1784. From memorandums on his sermons it appears that while a probationer he preached at the following places, Comrie, Crieff, Kilmaurs, Hamilton, Brechin, Paisley, Dunse, Peebles, Dundee, Cupar, Arbroath, Auchtermuclity, Kilmarnock, Morebattle, Alyth, Alloa. Of the character of his preaching at this time we cannot now get any account, but we cannot be far wrong in supposing that it was similar to what it was when he arrived in Nova Scotia, viz., that it was acceptable, but by no means of the eminent character by which it was afterward distinguished. A Mr. James Hay, writing in 1811, says, “I have never forgotten the excellent discourse which you preached at Alloa, which I admired very much at the time, and I have met with little since that was not contained in your argument.” And the Rev. Alexander Allan, of Cnpar-angus, says, “Your memory is still dear to some good people here, and you have a place in their prayers.” And Messrs. Buchanan and Pagan, who had been employed as agents of the people of Pictou, say in a letter to their constituents, “It will be needless for us to expatiate upon that gentleman’s character as a minister; we shall only say that this has been made to appear in such a strong point of view, we have not the least doubt of his giving entire satisfaction to your congregation.”

During the whole course of his preparation for the work of the ministry, and also while engaged as a probationer, it was believed both by himself and the Synod, that the sphere in which he was called to labour, was the Highlands of Scotland. But the Secession had made but little progress in that part of the island, and they had few congregations there. The most interesting and most important was at Chapel Hill, in the parish of Nigg, Rosshire. This congregation had originated in the violent settlement of a minister obnoxious to the whole parish. In consequence of the universal opposition to him, the Presbytery were unwilling to proceed with his ordination, but awed by the authority of the General Assembly, who significantly referred them to the fate of Gillespie, who about four years before had been deposed from the ministry for refusing to join in such an act, four members of Presbytery proceeded to the church for the purpose. They found it empty, and were about to proceed with the mockery of committing the care of the souls of the parish to the obnoxious presentee, when an aged and venerable man, usually known as Donald Roy (Red Donald) whose name has been made widely known by the writings of one of his descendants, the lamented Hugh Miller, stood up and in solemn tones, announced to them, that “if they settled that man to the icalls of the church, the blood of the parish of Nigg would be required at their hands.” The members of Presbytery awe struck, gave up the work for that day; but under the fear of ecclesiastical authority at head quarters, they accomplished it on a subsequent occasion. The whole population however refused to enter the Parish Church, and after vainly endeavouring to obtain relief within the Established Church, they at length joined the Secession. For some time they had been under the ministry of the Rev. Patrick Buchanan, but, he being advanced in years, efforts were about being made to obtain the subject of our memoir as his colleague and successor. The people of Comrie also, who had hitherto formed a part of the pastoral charge of the Rev. Jas. Barlas, of Crieff, but who had always looked forward to having a minister of their own, were making an effort to secure his services. We believe, however, that he looked upon Nigg as the probable scene of his future labours, when those events transpired which caused his removal to Nova Scotia.

In the fall of 1784 the people of Pictou had sent to Scotland a petition for a minister. It was entrusted to Messrs. John Pagan and John Buchanan, two respectable inhabitants of Greenock. Mr. Pagan was one of the members of the Philadelphia company by which Pictou was first settled, and the owner of the ship Hector, which brought to that place the first immigrants from Scotland. Of Mr. Buchanan we know nothing. The duty intrusted to them they seemed to have discharged faithfully. They were at liberty to present the petition to any Presbytery that they deemed most likely to comply with it. They held various consultations with ministers of different Presbyterian bodies, and had their attention directed to more than one who was thought likely to suit, but at length they made proposals to him. From records still existing it appears, that he was highly recommended to them, and that some of the ministers of the body to which he belonged considered it his duty to accept the proposal. Among his shorthand MS. we have found the following draft of a reply to a letter submitting the matter to his consideration:

“I received yours with Mr. P’s and the petition. The petition breathes the spirit of the gospel and discovers no small acquaintance with its doctrines. It describes so feelingly the case of the people of Pictou, that I think some person or other is clearly called upon to go to their assistance, but I am not so clear if I be the person. I do not wish to raise captious objections against it from a desire to stay at home, nor, had I a regular call to go thither, should I wish to disobey it. It is very plain that I cannot answer any petition at my own hand, but by the order of the Synod. Therefore the Synod must be in the first, place petitioned, and if they approve of it, I should probably obey. This sets aside at once what Air. Pagan says about sailing in the beginning of March. I have already received appointments from the Synod till the beginning of March. And though that term were out, they have power to give new appointments. I do not blame Mr. P. for wishing the petition to be answered so soon, for perhaps lie cannot be acquainted with the constitution of the Synod. All that I mean is lo show him the impossibility of answering it so soon. But when Messrs. R. M. and you earnestly wish my compliance with this providential call, I hope you mean in an orderly way, viz., by its first coming before the Synod. At the same time it is doubtful, if Messrs. Buchanan and Pagan can present it to the Synod, without first consulting their constituents, and getting their approbation. From the petition itself, it appears, that it was never designed to be presented to the Associate Synod. Perhaps the petitioners do not know whether there be any Associate Synod. It seems to me that the petition was designed to be presented to some of the Presbyteries in the Highlands, where the probationers understood both Gaelic and English. Now I greatly suspect that it would be irregular to present the petition to the Associate Synod, beside the intention of the petitioners. That expression, “ also to strengthen the hands of the few ministers of the Presbyterian denomination already there,” is certainly improper in any petition to be presented to our Synod ; though all things considered, we cannot expect it to be otherwise. If the expression means, as is wholly probable, a strengthening of the Presbyterian ministers there, in the way of keeping (?) church communion with them, it is surely beyond the power of the Synod to answer it. The Synod is as bound to protect me as I am to be subject to them, and therefore they cannot throw me away beyond their own connection. Again, if the Synod should send me away, and require of me not to join in communion with the Presbyterian ministers there, might not the people justly say, that their petition was not answered and on that account refuse to receive me? I know nothing of the Presbyterian ministers there, but is there any reason to hope that they arc all sound, and especially that they are all friends of a covenanted Reformation? If we are to judge of them from the Presbyteries of the Established Church here, may we not conclude that there is only one here and there that is sound in the faith? And if any of them be Arians and corrupt, and I join with them, how is it possible for me to escape the dangerous infection? I know that “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” Mr. P. wishes to get one who preaches the doctrines of the Westminster Confession, as worthy of a place. And I heartily wish that whoever is chosen may in this respect be wholly lo his mind. I believe the people want such a one, and lie, upon your recommendation, takes me to be such a one. Some such there may he there already, and he may wonder that I refuse to join with them. But I flatter myself that Mr. P. knows that many worthy ministers of the Church of Scotland preach these very doctrines, and yet are obliged to contradict them in their practice., by giving the right hand of fellowship to false brethren, and by sitting in judgment with them. He knows that this is a very disagreeable situation. I wish he could come one step farther, and see the (utter) unlawfulness of it, especially after a remedy is provided, as I hope is done in the Secession. Then he would see the reasonableness of my shunning such a situation.”

The above is only the first draft, and therefore in language and composition is not so correct as the copy would be. But we have inserted it as an interesting exhibition, and the only one we possess of his sentiments at that time. It will be seen that it indicates his readiness to go wherever duty might call him,—that he held himself at the disposal of the church, and was willing to submit to the decisions of its councils, without any sentimental weakness about leaving kindred and country. At the same time there appear scruples which in the present day would be regarded as needless, but which will be readily understood by reference to those views of church communion, to which we have adverted; and which may be considered as indicating a morbid sensitiveness about compromising the interests of truth and godliness, by any fellowship with those who, partaking of the Christian name, were yet not considered as coming up to the same standard of purity in doctrine and practice.

The following extract of a letter of the Bev. Patrick Buchanan, in reply to one of his, serves to indicate his state of feeling at the time:

“You desire me to let you know what I think of the affair relative to Nova Scotia. Really, dear brother, I cannot attain to any thoughts about it, worth the communicating. My mind recoils at the thought of one fitted for preaching the gospel in Gaelic leaving poor, desolate, secure Scotland. But if the Lord has determined your future labours and usefulness to be on the other side of the globe, we should certainly acquiese in his determination as he shall be pleased to bring it about in his adorable providence, and say, ‘The will of the Lord be done.’

“We know not however what may turn out yet before the meeting of Synod; and if they shall be directed to appoint you to remote America, I am glad to learn that you are disposed to consider it as the Lord’s call to you to go, although the thoughts of your leaving us, I confess, very sensibly affect me.”

Having referred the whole matter to the church courts, Messrs. Buchanan and Pagan presented a petition to the Presbytery of Perth, that lie be appointed to Pietou, accompanying it with the petition from Pictou. That Presbytery transmitted both papers to the Synod, and the matter came up for consideration in the higher court on the 4th May 1780, when as its minutes record, Doth these petitions were read, a considerable time was then spent in conversation together and with Mr. MacGregor on the subject, and the question was agreed to be put, Grant the said petition and appoint Mr. MacGregor accordingly. After prayer for the Lord’s countenance in the matter, the roll being called and votes marked, it carried unanimously, Grant and appoint, like as the Synod did and hereby do appoint Mr. James Drummond MacGregor, on the said mission accordingly. They excused Mr. MacGregor from all the appointments he is lying under in the Presbytery of Perth, except the ensuing Sabbath, transmitted him to the Presbytery of Glasgow, appointed him to deliver a lecture on Matt, xxviii. 19, 20 verses, a popular sermon on the last clause of verse 20, an Exegesis on the following question, viz., An Chrislvs sit Brus, to give account of the first half of the first century of Church History, to read the first Psalm in Hebrew, and the Greek Testament ad aperturam Jibri, before the said Presbytery, against the last Tuesday of this month, at Glasgow, at which time the Synod appointed the Presbytery of Glasgow to hold their next ordinary meeting; and they appointed that, on the Presbytery’s being satisfied with Mr. MacGregor’s trials, they take the first opportunity to ordain him to the office of the holy ministry, and that Mr. MacGregor take the first opportunity afterward of setting off for Pictou in Nova Scotia to exercise his ministry among that people.”

We now reach that period when his own narrative commences. We shall give it in full, only interrupting it to add any additional facts, that we may have learned from other sources, or such information regarding points touched on, as may serve to elucidate the subject.

“In the fall of 1784, the settlers of Pictou sent a petition to Scotland for a minister, who could preach Gaelic and English, and committed it to the charge of Bailie John Buchanan, and Mr. John Pagan, two respectable inhabitants of Greenock, directing them to apply to any Presbyterian court from whom they could obtain the most suitable answer to their petition. These gentlemen, after consulting with one another, their friends, and ministers of different denominations, laid the petition before the General Associate Synod (Antiburgher) in May 178(3, craving that I (being the only preacher under the inspection of the Synod) might be appointed to Pictou. After some deliberation and conversation, the Synod unanimously granted the petition, appointed me to Pictou, and ordered the Presbytery of Glasgow, without delay, to take me upon trials for ordination, and, being ordained that I should take the first opportunity of sailing for Nova Scotia.

"I was thunderstruck by this decision of Synod, I by no means expected it, though I was not without fears of it. It put me into such a confusion, that I did not know what to say or think. I had considered it a case clear, not to myself only, but to the majority of the Synod, that I was called to preach to the Highlanders of Scotland, and of course that I could not be sent abroad. I had never met with an event to deprive me wholly of a night’s sleep till then. That night I slept none, but tossed upon my bed, till it was time to rise next morning. Through the day several friends helped much to reconcile me to the Synod’s appointment. Upon reflection I observed that there was at present no opening of great consequence for my preaching the gospel to the Highlanders at home,— that souls were equally precious wherever they were, and that I might be as successful abroad as at home. I resolved to go, but still overwhelming difficulties were before me. The mission was vastly important, and I was alone and weakness itself. I had to go among strangers, probably prejudiced against the religions denomination to which I belonged. Though the Synod told me, and I felt it comfort too, that I was not sent to make Seceders, but Christians) yet, as there was no minister before me, except two or three Burgher ministers, nor any likely to come after me with whom I could hold communion, I felt as an exile from the church. Besides Nova Scotia was accounted so barren, cold, and dreary, that there was no living in it with comfort. Isa. x!i. 14, was my comfort, ‘ Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the Lord, and thy Redeemer, the Holy one of Israel/ ”

He used to mention that when hesitating to fulfil the Synod’s appointment, that passage of Scripture in which Jonah was represented as fleeing from the presence of the Lord was perpetually upon his mind, and seemed sounding in his ears, until he went to the meeting of Presbytery, and gave in his acceptance, when the passage went from his mind and never troubled him more.

It will be seen that the proceedings in reference to his departure were rather summary. The meeting of Synod at which the appointment was made took place on the 4th of May. No time was allowed for consideration. He had to fulfil an appointment for the following Sabbath, and yet prepare his trials for ordination, and make all his preparations for departure before the 30th of the same month, when the Presbytery was to meet.

The most of this time, as appears from his own account, was spent among his relations in Comrie. The intelligence of his appointment not only filled their minds with the sorest distress, but the whole population of his native place were affected by it. He had greatly endeared himself to all, and his departure caused a grief in the community, of which at the distance of seventy years the memory is still preserved.

On the Sabbath previous to his departure, lie preached a farewell sermon. The discourse was solemn and impressive, and the people were much affected by it. In concluding the services he gave out the 91st Psalm to be sung.

“I of the Lord my God will say He is my refuge still,
He is my fortress and my God And in him trust I will.

"Assuredly he shall thee save,
And give deliverance From subtle fowler’s snare, and from
The noisome pestilence.

“His feathers shall thee hid?; thy trust
Under his wings shall be;
His faithfulness shall be a shield
And buckler unto thee, &c.”

"It was,” says Mrs. Gilfillan, a daughter of the late Rev. Mr. Barlas, of Crieff, “a very touching occasion. He was much affected himself, as well as all that heard him. His text was from the words of Hagar, ‘Thou God seest me.’ It was a beautiful and serious discourse. He left Crieff next day. All our family were in tears, even the servants. He was much about our house, and was very familiar, and very amiable in his manners. Going out as a missionary to that untried field was thought a great undertaking, but he cheerfully left all for Christ, and to carry the glad tidings of salvation to that destitute people.”

If such was the impression which his departure produced upon the mind of his acquaintance, our readers may imagine what must have been the feelings, on the occasion, of his father’s family, each member of which was distinguished naturally by great tenderness of heart, and whose natural feelings were sublimated by religion, and through the amiableness of his character had been nourished to their utmost strength. An elder sister felt the separation with particular keenness. She was by this time married, but had no children, and she and her husband had resolved to move their residence to whatever place he would be settled in, but the distance to which he was going precluded all hope of her being with him. His father, now an old man whose head was whitened with the snows of more than seventy winters, felt the pang of separation from an only son in whom his strongest earthly hopes and his dearest earthly joys were centred. But a desire for the spread of the gospel had been his ruling passion. Preferring Jerusalem above his chief joy, and love to Christ triumphing over parental affection, he was enabled at the call of God, as he deemed it, with a faith like that of Abraham, to lay that only son, like another Isaac, upon the altar for that important object. “Though he felt,” says Mr. Gilfillan, “the yearnings of an affectionate father over an only son, he cheerfully acquiesced, and rejoiced that he had a son honoured to carry the gospel to the dark places of the earth.”

The stronger feelings of the mother did not so readily yield, and his strong affection for her, as well as her unwillingness to part with him, tried him sorely. But the stern sense of duty prevailed, and in the spirit of him who said, “What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart?” he replied to her entreaties, “Do not seek to hinder me, for if I remained I might be a heartbreak to you.”

We have no particular account of his parting with his relatives, but it was a scene the remembrance of which hung heavily upon the mind of each member of the family through life. His father accompanied him about three-quarters of a mile to the residence of a brother-in-law, and then returned to spend the few remaining years of earthly pilgrimage, no longer cheered with the presence of his son, to whom he had looked as the stay of his declining years. To estimate his self-denial, we must not judge of it by the state of things in the present day. The modern missionary enterprise has rendered such sacrifices not uncommon. But that enterprise had not then commenced. The duty of surrendering those near and beloved for the cause of Christ in this way had not then been generally insisted on, was scarcely recognized as a duty resting upon the members of the church, and by example was almost unknown, nor had the church learned by experience the blessed reward of such conduct. The circumstances too in which his son was going involved a self-denial, such as parents, who now give their sons to the work of the Lord, can scarcely know. The mode in which he was sent out, we shall presently see, was in marked contrast with the manner in which modern missionaries go forth* the field was one in which were expected and feared, if not actually endured, more of privations, with less of the comforts of civilized life, than in ordinary circumstances may be expected to fall to the lot of the herald of the Cross, to whatever part of the world lie may go; and he seemed more thoroughly secluded from the world than in any modern missionary field— communication more difficult, and the prospect of meeting his friends again in the flesh more hopeless. But his faith failed not, and ere long, as we shall see, his heart was made joyful in hearing of his son’s being the honoured instrument of turning-many to righteousness, and building up the kingdom of the Redeemer in the land of his exile. Doubtless too he felt in his happy experience the fulfilment of the promise, “ There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake and the gospel’s, but he shall receive an hundred fold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.” We shall notice his last days hereafter. In the meantime we must follow the young missionary to Glasgow.

“After spending a few days,” says he, “among my relations and acquaintances in the parish of Comrie, I bade them a final adieu, and repaired to Glasgow, to give in my trials for ordination. The Presbytery passed them easily. I was ordained next day, viz., the 81st of May, as a vessel was expected to sail for Halifax in two or three days, and no other opportunity of a passage was expected that year. The Rev. James Robertson, of Kilmarnock, preached the ordination sermon from Isa. Ix. 9, 1 Surely the isles shall wait for me, and the ships of Tar-shish first, to bring thy sons from far, their silver and their gold with them, unto the name of the Lord thy God, and to the Holy One of Israel, because he hath glorified thee/ It was an excellent, exhilarating sermon on the future success of the gospel in converting the Gentiles from their ignorance, idolatry, and general depravity, to the knowledge, love, and holiness of God in Christ; but its principal effect upon me was a depression of spirits from unbelieving fears of my weakness, as if God could do nothing by my means.”

The sermon preached at his ordination greatly interested him. His mind reverted to it when engaged in his arduous work here, and he wrote to Mr. Robertson very earnestly for a copy of it, and urging its publication. Mr. Robertson in reply said that he never intended to publish any sermons in full, if he did publish, that it would be the substance merely of discourses, and giving the general observations of the discourse in question as follows:

1. Though the kingdom of Christ was but very confined for a long period of time, yet almost from the beginning of the world there were intimations of its enlargement and increase, Gen. ix. 27, xii. 3. Abraham became “an heir of the world” Rom. iv. 13; Gen. xlix. 10.

2. Many of the promises and prophecies of the Old Testament Scrip, lures, had a very glorious accomplishment in the conversion of the nations to Christ, soon after his ascension, Acts viii. 1 ; Isa. ii. 3, 4; Zech. xiv. 8; Isa. Ixvi. 18-20; Psa. lxxxvii. 3, 4.

3. The extensive spreading of the gospel and the success of it in the world, considering the means and instruments which were employed for that end, is a strong proof of its divine original. It was not with the weapons of Mahomet, or Antichrist. It triumphed by the power of the Spirit of God, over the subtilty of philosophers, the craft of politicians, the superstition of selfish deceitful priests and their deluded votaries, the rage of persecutors, the deceit and fury of hell, and the wickedness and rooted prejudices of men of all sorts, Zech. iv. 7; Rom. xv. 19 ; 2 Corinthians x. 4.

4. Though the boundaries of Christ’s kingdom may at times be confined and the success of his gospel not so eminent, yet his work of conversion and edification of souls in faith and holiness is never absolutely at a stand, Psa. xlv. 17, xxii. 27-31, Ixxxvii. 5; Isa. xlix. 20, xxvii. 13, lix. 19, 20. Christ is still making progress, upon the word of truth, meekness, and righteousness, Psa. xlv. 3-5.

5. There have been great revolutions in the world to promote the advancement of Christ’s kingdom, and there will be as remarkable ones as ever, Isa. xlii. 9-16, xliii. 3-14; Hag. ii. 6, vii. 22; Psa. xlvi. 8-10; John xvii. 2. Christ is guilty of no usurpation in setting up his kingdom any where, for lie is the natural and appointed heir of all things, and makes all his servants better subjects to their natural and original sovereign.

G. While we should be thankful for the Lord’s goodness in preserving the purity of the gospel in any measure, and raising up any friends to favour it, so we should consider this as the first fruits of a more glorious harvest approaching-. Great events have often small beginning:?, 1 Kings xviii. 44; Exek. xlvii. 1-11. So Isa. xi. 7, xliii. 20; Psa. lxxii. 9-12.

7. In order that the gospel may be published and Christ’s kingdom enlarged, there is to be a trade set on foot in a great measure now unknown, in cargoes of Bibles to the barbarous nations, eargoes of ministers and missionaries to them, and cargoes of them by sea and charioifulls and litterfuils of them by land, to places where the gospel is preached. Our text, Isa. lxvi. 18-20, xliii. 14; Zech. xiv. 20; Psa. lxxii. 10; Isa. xxiii. 18; Alic. iv. 13; Isa. xlix. 23; Psa. vii. 27.

8. Those who are the friends of the gospel arc not to be discouraged because of great mountains of opposition standing in the way of all this —because in the light of sense and reason, there is in the complexion of the present times, little which has a favourable aspect this way. Our God is Jehovah, Lord of Hosts, almighty, all-wise, and unchangeably faithful and gracious, Zeph. iii. 17; Psa. cii. 15; Dan. ii. 44; Psa. ex. 5, 6, xevii. 5.

Improve the subject, for thankfulness, for faith, and hope, for reproof to those who pretend to pray and wish well to the gospel, and yet are like the Bishop, who would give his blessing to the beggar, but neither sixpence, nor penny, nor even half-penny to him, Psalm xlv. 12, for encouragement to those who are sent on distant and difficult missions for the spread of the gospel, Acts xxii. 21; Jer. xlv. 5 ; Psa. lxv. 6; Deut. xxxiii. 27; Jer. vii. 17, 18; Matt, xxviii. 20.

Mr. Robertson was known as a man of strong natural powers, and considerable theological attainments, but of an eccentric turn of mind. But we have inserted the above sketch of the sermon preached on the occasion, not merely from the interest which the Dr. felt in it, but as an indication of the extent to which the missionary spirit was already beginning to prevail in the body. The very texts assigned him as subjects of trial for ordination evinced the same thing. The great modern missionary enterprise had not then commenced. But its light was beginning to appear. The first beams of the coming morn were gilding the western hill tops. The more intelligent minds in the Christian Church had felt their awakening power, the more advanced spirits had caught the inspiration of the approaching day, and the church was preparing her measures accordingly. The Secession Church showed herself to have “understanding of the times to know what Israel ought to do by thus early directing her attention to the destitute beyond her own borders. Thus she was not only the principal means in the hands of providence of preserving religion in Scotland, when spiritual deadness had settled down upon the face of the country, but of sending the gospel to distant regions of the earth.

The sending forth of Dr. MacGregor, however, was by no means the commencement of her Foreign Missionary operations. For years both branches had been sending ministers across the Atlantic to preach the gospel in the new settlements of the Western Continent. In the year 1753, more than twenty years previously, the General Associate Synod had sent forth two missionaries to Pennsylvania, although its ministers were then few in number, and insufficient to meet the wants of the church at home. And she continued afterward 'steadily to respond, to the extent of her ability, to every call upon her. The example was followed a few years later by the Associate, or Burgher Synod, so that for some time scarce a year elapsed without one or more labourers being sent abroad. These missionaries were the means of planting flourishing churches in many parts of the United States and the British Provinces. Their labours were principally directed to Pennsylvania, New York, and Kentucky, but also extended over other States, while in many of the older settlements of Canada West, in which Presbyterianism now prevails, the gospel was first proclaimed amid difficulty and trial by ministers of the same body. Even previous to Dr. MacGregor several ministers had also been sent to Nova Scotia.

But it is necessary that a few remarks should be made here as to the manner in which these missions were conducted. In the first place it will be observed that, in the selection of agents, the higher court exercised the right of disposing of its members as it pleased; and any refusal to submit to its decisions was regarded as contumacy, calling for the heaviest censure. Doubtless this power was at times exercised harshly and in disregard of the feelings of parties concerned; but we cannot help regarding it as a salutary one. We believe that the church of Rome owes much of its efficiency to the spirit of discipline among its clergy; and we believe that there will not be the same efficiency in our Protestant Churches as Missionary Institutes, till their ministers hold themselves in readiness lo go wherever Christ may call them, to occupy the sphere which he has appointed, and to regard the decisions of the church, arrived at after due deliberation, under the influence of a desire to promote the divine glory, and with direction earnestly sought from the great Head of the Church, as indicating his will on the subject. It was in this light that Dr. MacGregor regarded the matter, and to this we may say that we are indebted for his coming to Nova Scotia.

But the principle adopted in conducting their missionary operations deserves particular attention. When the modern missionary enterprise commenced, it was thought by many wise and good men, that the work might be most efficiently performed by voluntary associations of Christian men belonging to different denominations, self-organized, outside of the church, for the purpose. In this view the General Associate Synod could not conscientiously concur. Hence when a few years later the zeal of the church shone forth so brightly, and led to the formation of the London and other Missionary Societies, they as a body took no share in such movements, though individuals among them, the number of whom increased, became the most liberal contributors to such institutions. The reason for this was to be found partly in the fact, that they had already been engaged in missions of their own, but principally that they did not concur in the propriety of the principle upon which these associations were based, and the measures they adopted. They believed that Christ had committed the work of spreading the gospel to his church, and not to any self-constituted society. And much of their mode of management they regarded as objectionable. When they saw committees under no ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and properly vested with no ecclesiastical authority, consisting in part at least of laymen, selecting agents for preaching the gospel to the heathen, sitting in judgment upon their qualifications, and even ordaining them to the work of the ministry, they could not but regard such a proceeding as an interference with the order which Christ has established in his church, and the basis of such associations involving such procedure, to be unseriptural. These views were for a time regarded by many as sectarian and bigoted, but they are now being generally adopted by churches both iu the United States and the mother country.

But while commending the principle upon which the early missions of the Secession were based, we cannot commend the mode in which they were conducted. The Synod carried their objections to seeking notoriety to such a fastidious extreme, that they published no reports of their proceedings. But their management was chiefly deficient in the fact, that iu sending forth missionaries little or nothing was done for their present or future comfort. In this respect the circumstances in which Dr. MacGregor and the early missionaries were sent forth, present a strong contrast with the manner in which the modern missionary goes forth to his labours. The latter has not only his passage paid to the scene of his labours, but, at the expense of the church, he receives what is necessary to equip him thoroughly with what is necessary for his comfort and usefulness, and a board at home are responsible for his subsequent maintenance. But when the first missionaries of the Secession were sent forth, the most that was done was to take collections to aid in paying their passage. These were often inadequate, and sometimes, as in Dr. MacGregor’s case, were not made at all. And no provision was in any case made for their subsequent maintenance. They were sent to disheartening toil, to mental and bodily privations, in a low state of society, with the country still a wilderness, and left to obtain a maintenance as they best might, among a people not in circumstances, if ever so willing, to afford thus any thing but a scanty support; and sometimes were left to struggle on, uncheered by any expressions of sympathy, affection, or encouragement, except from some personal friends, whose letters coming at distant intervals were indeed as good news from a far country, and with none of that eclat, which now surrounds the missionary, and which it is to be feared sometimes acts upon his mind as the hope of worldly glory animates the earthly warrior.

It is but justice to the church at home to observe that the ministers there were enduring sacrifices of a similar kind. The income of John Brown of Haddington, never exceeded £50 per annum. We have seen an estimate drawn up in the year 1774, of the contributions of the two Seceding bodies, in which the average salary of their ministers is estimated at £60. A considerable proportion would have considered themselves

“Passing rich on forty pounds a year,”

while some had not twenty. The people adhering to them were generally in very humble circumstances, and the liberality so characteristic of the present day had not been evoked, and it is not therefore surprising, that little effort was made for the comfort of those going abroad.

Still under all the circumstances of the case, we consider the conduct of the early Secession missionaries to Nova Scotia, as exhibiting a self-denial not surpassed in modern missionary enterprises. "Had the toils, the perils, the sacrifices of our fathers been endured under the light of the Foreign Missionary enterprise in some of the high places of foreign operations, they would have been chronicled as martyrs, and if not canonized, they would have at least been made immortal.”

In Dr. MacGregor’s case, two incidents which we shall now relate will be sufficient to show the manner in which he came out. When leaving his native place, Donald M'Nab, a brother of his second sister’s husband, asked him what he meant to do for means, he replied, “Trust in Providence." Donald immediately responded, “Here is £20, which you can return when you are able.” He took the money and some time after returned it. The other perhaps is still more interesting. One of his sisters borrowed two guineas which she lent him. He some years after sent her £10, which she, with prudent Scotch care, put out at interest, and in her old age the interest served to pay her seat rent in the church.

The time allowed between his appointment and his departure was so short, that the family had not time to prepare an outfit for him, but during the following winter his mother and sister were busily employed in spinning, weaving, knitting, &c., for him, and as the result of their labours, a large stock of such articles of bodily comfort, as industrious housewives can manufacture from the produce of their flocks, or from their flax, were prepared, and sent after him. And it may be mentioned to the credit of the person concerned, as well as indicating the affection and esteem which he had won by his amiable disposition, that an humble seamstress in Crieff, named Jane Salmon, considered an excellent shirt maker, rendered her services in making his, and refused all compensation, on account of their being for Dr. MacGregor.

"When in addition to the ties to bind him to his native land, and the unfavourable circumstances in which he was going forth, we add that the country to which he was going was then regarded as in soil and climate presenting only cold, dreariness, and barrenness, scarcely fit for human habitations, and almost a place of hopeless banishment from the Christian world, and that the modern missionary enterprise had not familiarized the church with the idea of such sacrifices fur the sake of the perishing, we think we are justified in saying, that he exhibited an example of self-denying devotedness to the cause of Christ, which may be placed along side the most noble instances of the kind, which the annals of the Christian Church record.

Yet never did he complain. Never did he talk of those sacrifices in “leaving kindred and country,” which occupy so large a portion of missionary records. He was too strongly influenced by sense of duty, for sentimentalism of this sort, and he had sufficient humility to follow the Saviour’s direction, “When ye shall have done all these things, which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which was our duty to do.” There never was at any period of his life any thing of doing his sacrifices before men to be seen of them—any parading of his self-denial, or sounding a trumpet regarding it. On the contrary, while manifesting a self denial which would put to shame many of our modern missionaries, whose every want had been supplied by the liberality of friends at home, an incident which occurred on the eve of his departure, will show how his benevolent spirit caused his deep poverty to abound to the riches of his liberality. Ridiculous as it may appear in the present day, it was then customary for ministers to wear a species of cocked hat. He had spent on what he deemed necessary articles of outfit all the money he thought he could spare, except one guinea which he had reserved for the purpose of obtaining this necessary article. In this emergency a strong appeal came for some benevolent object. He hesitated whether to give his guinea or buy the hat. He however determined on the former. He did not however go without his hat. A day or two afterward a friend meeting him said, “I hear that you are going to America.” “Yes.” “Well, you are not going with that hat. Come in here.” So he took him into one of the best establishments in Glasgow, and made him a present of one of the best quality.

We conclude this chapter with giving his own account of his departure and voyage to Halifax, with a notice of the state of society there.

“Next day, (viz., that following the ordination,) I came to Greenock, along with the Rev. John Buist, to whose activity alone the success of this business was owing. lie did all that he could to assist and comfort me, and not then only, but his friendship continued all the days of his life, and was one of my principal consolations, till Divine Providence removed him and raised up others. On the 3d of June I went on board the brig Lily, Captain Smith, bound to Halifax. There were along with me in the cabin, three captains, two lieutenants of the army, and two gentlemen emigrants. I had no reason to complain of their civility all along, but I had abundant cause to bewail their impiety. Songs, cards, drunkenness, and often horribly profane swearing, were their common afternoon employment. At times reasoning and advice would have some effect on them, at other times none.

“Next morning was the Sabbath and the king’s birth day. On board the Lily there was no appearance of a Sabbath, except with two or three steerage passengers, and one of the hands, whom I observed now and then retiring to read his Bible. The sailors had very many things to do and arrange in order to prepare for encountering the swelling waves of the sea, which were evidently works of necessity, if it was a work of necessity for us to have sailed before Monday, a question which I suppose had not been discussed. 11 No Sabbath at sea” was the common reply of the sailors to such of the passengers as accused them of profaning it.

“Nothing worth mentioning happened during the voyage, unless that the Sabbath days were so stormy that on two of them only I could stand upon deck to perform public worship. I landed at Halifax, July 11th, and stayed two or three days there getting my baggage ashore, and looking out for a vessel to carry it round to Pictou. The immorality of Halifax shocked me not a little, and I hastened out of it hoping better things of the country.”

This character Halifax retained for many years, chiefly owing to its being the principal naval and military establishment in British America. The smallness of the town at that time, compared with the number of soldiers and sailors stationed there, rendered this influence more injurious. The following extract of a letter written some years before may be regarded as descriptive of its condition at this time, the years of war that had elapsed having made no improvement. “Halifax may contain about one thousand4 houses, great and small, many of which are employed as barracks, hospitals for the army and navy, and other public uses. The inhabitants may be about three thousand, one third of which are Irish, and many of them Homan Catholics; about one fourth Germans and .Dutch, the most industrious and useful settlers amongst us, and the rest English with a very small number of Scotch. We have upwards of one hundred licensed houses, and perhaps as many more which retail spirituous liquors without license; so that the business of one half of the town is to sell rum, and the other half to drink it. You may from this simple circumstance judge of our morals, and naturally infer that we are not enthusiasts in religion.” There was at that time little faithful gospel preaching. It is gratifying, however, to be able to remark, that there has been considerable improvement apparent in its religious character for years, we believe partly owing to the fact that the naval and military establishments have been diminished, while the general population has increased, but principally to the fact of God in his Providence sending thither a number of excellent ministers of various denominations.

Before however following the narrative farther we must give some account of Nova Scotia, its early settlement, and its moral and physical condition at the time of his arrival.


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