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Memoir of the Rev James MacGregor D.D.
Chapter XIII. - Continued Labours at Home and Abroad
1793 - 1795


“Be not weary in well doing, for in due season ye shall reap, if ye faint not.” Gal. vi. 9.

As the life and labours of Doctor MacGregor are closely connected with the social progress of Pictou, we may here notice an important change, which took place about this time, viz., the introduction of law. Hitherto the settlers might be considered as one family. Squire Patterson had managed almost all their secular affairs. Indeed until the arrival of Doctor MacGregor he performed the ceremony of marriage, after notice had been duly posted up in several parts of the county. With him was associated, as possessing a kindred influence, John Patterson, commonly known as Deacon Patterson, and after his death as the old Deacon, from his son being also an elder of the church. “ For many years after his arrival here, there was neither law nor lawyers. In those happy times men took the scriptural mode of settling disputes. They were not afraid to leave the adjustment of ‘things that pertain to this life,’ to their conscientious neighbours. These two old Patriarchs, the squire and the deacon, famed as they were for integrity and sound sense, became the general peacemakers. None dared or wished to gainsay their decisions. Generally when two men in any place are upon an equality, the disposition to be first, so universally distributed among men, creates feuds between them, and the public good is left in the back ground, and the public peace disturbed. The two good men of 'whom we are speaking formed an honourable exception from that common occurrence. They lived together not merely on good terms, but a pattern of warm and inflexible friendship.”

But, during the few years that had elapsed since Doctor MacGregor’s arrival, the population had considerably increased. A number of pious Highland families were attracted hither from other parts of the Province by his preaching, and a considerable emigration of Highbinders, both Protestant and Catholic, took place about the years 1791 and 1792. This rapid increase of population now caused those halcyon days to cease, and in 1792, an order was issued by Government for holding an inferior court in this town. This was followed by the erection of a jail in the year 1791. It stood where the house of James D. B. Fraser, Esq., now stands, and was built by the late John Patterson. We have his account for it in our possession, from which it appears that the amount levied fur its erection, was paid principally in produce; wheat and maple sugar being the chief articles of exchange. Another change also may be noticed. Previously each settler had acted in a great measure as artizan for his own family, but such an increase led to mechanics devoting their time to their several employments, and thus introduced more of that division of labour, characteristic of a more advanced state of society.

Turning to the congregation, we may insert here a brief memorandum, which we have found iu his own hand writing, written on his return from his visit to River John, described in the last chapter. “Communicants, 2-10; Examinables, 500.” “Ramshak, 20 families; Tatamagouche, 14; River Jones, 6; Merigomish, 30.” Below is also the following, the figures on which we presume denote families. “Harbour, 40; West River, 30; Middle River, 18; East River, 90.” Total, 178.

This memorandum is written on the back of a letter from the Rev. Andrew Brown, of Halifax, mentioning “the sending out of a large supply of Bibles, Testaments, and pious tracts, by the Trustees of a collection made some years ago for the benefit of the Dissenting interest, to be distributed among the most indigent, aud of these among the best disposed in their congregation s,” and offering a supply to the Doctor for the benefit of his congregation. The same letter solicits, for the information of the Trustees, a statement of the extent of the district, the number of families in it, the number of communicants, examinables, &c.

These books and tracts we need not say were gladly received and extensively circulated. We may here notice an act of benevolence of a similar kind toward his congregation, which, as taking place previous to the formation of either Bible or Tract Societies, is worthy of record. We shall give it in the words of Mr. Buist as contained in a letter of date 19th March 1793.

“I also send you a large box, a present from David Dale, Esq., Glasgow, of GO Bibles, GO Spelling Books, GO Primers, for you to give to the poor Highlanders, and he desires me to say to you, he will send you more if the Lord spare him, and enable him to do it, and you think it will spread the glorious gospel of the grace of God. These are his words. I think you should write him a letter of thanks. I will convey it to him. I know they cost him £12, and are worth three times that with you. I have got them freight free and free of custom house. His goodness is uncommon in this age of the world. He is delighted, I gave him a hint to do good.”

It may not be going too far out of our way to notice that this individual was long well known in Glasgow, especially for his large hearted benevolence. He entered Glasgow with sixpence in his pocket, and died worth £180,000. He used to say that he gave away in gowpies or handfulls, but that God gave him back in shovelfulls. He was commonly known by the name of “Peasemeal David,” from the circumstance that in a year of great scarcity during the last war, he imported from Holland a cargo of pease, which he got ground, and sold to the poor at cost and charges, or gave gratuitously to the very necessitous.

Resuming Dr. MacGregor’s narrative, it opens for this year with a short account of an incident in his congregation which for a time agitated the minds of the people and gave him considerable uneasiness.

"1793. Robert Marshall and Donald MacKay, two of the elders, and perhaps the two foremost Christians in Pictou, being overreached by the craft of an insidious enemy to the gospel, were prevailed upon to subscribe a paper injurious to the character of one of their neighbours. The deed gave general offence, and as soon as they themselves saw its import, they were exceedingly sorry. When the session dealt with them, they proposed, themselves, as the best method of undoing the evil, to accept of a public rebuke. With reluctance the session yielded, and it was done—only it could not, with propriety, be called rebuke. I stated to the congregation, as fairly as I could, both the fact and the state of the two elders’ minds concerning it, and exhorted them to watch against the craft of the enemy. I exhorted the congregation highly to esteem the elders, and to profit by that example of submissive and cheerful acknowledgment of their fault which they had given. The feelings of all were excited in a very lively and affectionate manner, and the design of the enemy was completely frustrated. Besides, we had an opportunity of admiring the wisdom and propriety of Paul’s direction to Timothy, ‘ Rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father.’ ”

As to labours abroad we find that this summer he had a petition to visit Halifax, addressed to him by a committee of a congregation recently become vacant. They represent themselves as having been under the pastoral care of the Rev. Mr. Furmage, who had been removed by death—that they held the doctrines of the gospel—that Arminianism prevailed around them, and that they desired him to visit them, and advise with them especially as to obtaining a minister, and that, should he do so, they will pay his expenses. What advice he gave them we know not, but it does not appear that he visited them. He had preached in Halifax at the time of William MacKay’s lawsuit, and on some other occasions afterward. But for this summer he sets down his first visit to portions of the county of Hants, which have since become a flourishing part of the church.

“Petitions were sent to the session from Chiganois, Shubenacadie, Noel, and Kennetcook. I was appointed to give a Sabbath to each. I had preached before at Chiganois; the rest were new places, situated on the other side of the bay. A copy of my printed letter to the Synod had, somehow, found its way to them, and it excited them to apply to me for two or three Sabbaths’ labour among them, and to resolve upon applying to the Synod for a minister, if I should not discourage them. I preached at the several settlements, and on week-days conversed with them on the subject of applying for a minister. I told them that no minister had come in answer to four applications already made. They replied that they were not ready for the reception of a minister, and as he would not probably arrive for some years, it was best to make the application now, that they might be making ready for his coming, and that the Synod might know to be providing for them. I said, farther, that I was afraid that, on account of the extent of their settlements, and the thinness of their population, and want of roads, &c., the fatigue of serving them would be too much for any one minister. They replied that a very little service from a minister might do them much good, and they would be content with what he could do; and that, on their part, they would accommodate him as far as in them lay, to lessen his fatigue. Thus I agreed to write the petition for them, and send it to the Synod.

“In returning home, both myself and my horse were in imminent danger of death, in crossing Salmon River bridge, fifteen miles from the "West River of Pictou. The bridge was formed in the following manner:—Over an upright pier, on each side of the river, were laid three long logs, at least forty-five feet long, so as to extend fifteen feet beyond the pier on the river; the other end extending thirty feet on the land, and having heavy logs laid across them near the end, to overbalance any weight that might be on the bridge. The long logs are called hutments. Three other logs were laid with their ends resting on the inner ends of the butments, fifteen feet from the piers, filling the interval space. The round of the upper surface of the log was hewn away by the axe, and thus the bridge was finished with nine long logs. Spans of ninety or one hundred feet are made in this way.

“Riding along this bridge, my horse’s right hind foot went down between the logs (their outside being rotten), and ho could not pull it out, because he always pulled it aslant forward, and not straight up as he put it down. He tossed and struggled fearfully to get it out, but in vain; and as the bridge was narrow, he was often within an inch of tossing both himself and me over. I made many attempts to get off him, but could not, for I had no way to come off but to alight upon one side while he tossed to the other, but before I could do this he still tossed back, so that I had to keep my seat till he fatigued himself into calmness. When I got off him, I tried with all my might to push him back, that he might pull his leg straight up, but in vain. After resting a little, he began again to toss and struggle, so that I was oftentimes within an inch of being thrown over. I was in absolute need of help, but travellers seldom passed, and I might long wait in vain for assistance. There was a house about a quarter of a mile down the river from the bridge, and another a little further off up the river, and I shouted with all my might, hoping that somebody would hear me, but in vain. I resolved, however, not to abandon the poor animal. I waited long, and at last, to my great joy, saw a person passing very slowly from the house above to that below. I told him my distress, and begged him to run as fast as he could to the house below, and send me somebody. He went away so slowly that I made myself sure that he rejoiced at my calamity, and I was sufficiently angry and grieved. The horse, wearied out with struggling, at last lay down quietly on the bridge, and if I had had patience, my work in attending him would not have been difficult. After long waiting, I at last saw a woman coming in all haste with an axe in her hand. As the horse was quiet, I took time to bid her not be alarmed, and to ask her if there was nobody to send but herself, and what that wonderfully slow man was who informed her of my situation. She said that none of the men were at home; and as for that poor man, ‘he did his best; he is dying fast, and can scarcely drag one foot after the other.' I was now more angry at myself than I was before at him, for I had left no possible place of excuse for him.

“I gave the bridle to the woman, desiring her, if the horse should struggle, to hold him as firmly as she could, only to let him go over rather than herself. I took the axe and went to cut the hole wider, to let up the foot. This required caution, for as the horse lay down upon the bridge, he let down his thigh through the hole as far as it could go, so that I was in danger of cutting his thigh every stroke. By care I widened the hole without hurting the horse’s leg, pulled it up gently, and laid it across the hole under him. I then went and got a broad thin stone, and laid it over the hole, lest he should put his foot in it again, when he should get up. I took the bridle from the woman and bade him get up, which he did as if nothing had happened. Thus a kind Providence brought about my deliverance wonderfully.

“Two or three years afterwards, a better bridge was built here. The logs were properly squared, and a rail was put on both sides for the protection of passengers. On this bridge I was in as great danger, and had as remarkable a deliverance, but both very sudden. Going along one morning when the smoothed surface of the log was covered with hoar-frost, and the shoes of my horse were worn smooth, his right hind foot slid away, so that he fell against the rail and broke it; but the rail also broke his fall, so that he recovered himself. When I heard the rail cracking, I thought we were over for certain, and perhaps killed. What a happy disappointment, that next moment I found we were both safe! ‘The Lord is thy keeper.’

“Upon another occasion both my horse and I actually fell over a bridge into the water, but sustained no other damage than being alarmed and thoroughly wetted. It was a very rainy day, the timber of the bridge was very slippery, and the horse’s shoes smooth. He seemed to me to lose all his feet at once, for in a moment he played plash in the water upon his side. The bridge was not high, and the water pretty deep, so that in our fall we struck the water only, and were not hurt. I endeavoured instantly to disentangle my feet from the stirrups, lest the horse in saving himself should draw me after him, and either drown me or break my bones against logs or stones. I succeeded, and we both got to our feet soon, for the water was not deep enough to swim him. We made for the shore, he with case, I with difficulty, as my clothes became a heavy burden, and the stream was pretty strong. I mounted and rode off, thankful for God’s goodness.”

This last we believe took place at the Middle River, and it was remarked, that when he came home he quietly changed his clothes, as if nothing unusual had happened. But these were not the only occasions in which he was exposed to inconvenience, and even actual danger in crossing the streams, which every where traverse this country. On one occasion, coming over to the West River to preach, in descending Green Hill, back of the residence of George MacDonald, Esq., (such was then the course of the road,) a freshet had floated away the covering logs of the bridge across the brook. He passed along without observing this, and soon he and his horse plunged into the stream. He got thoroughly wet, and came to the house of Mr. MacLellan, who lived close by. They could give him a pair of striped trousers for a change, but they had not a black pair. So he dried his clothes a little by the fire, and then preached.

In his “Memorabilia” we find the two following entries:— “In October, 1792, the Lord wrought a most kind and wonderful deliverance for me.”

“In December, 1793, the Lord wrought a very kind and signal deliverance for me, by which I was freed out of as great a strait as ever I was in.

We are not certain -what these were; but the following was related by himself as a deliverance from the greatest difficulty he had ever been in, and it was probably one of them, and from the season of the year most likely the last of them. One Sabbath morning, in the month of December, he was proceeding to the West River to preach. In crossing MacCulloch’s Brook,— so called, the bridge being constructed like the one over Salmon River, above described, the horse put his foot between the logs, and making a sudden jerk to extricate himself, threw himself and his rider over the bridge into the brook. They fell amid water and mire, the horse on his side, and with one of the Doctor’s feet under him. The horse was in such a position, that, though he struggled a good deal, he could not rise; and the Doctor was utterly unable to extricate his leg from beneath the animal. He strove in vain for some time to relieve himself, until he began to despair. He thought, that unless some person should happen to pass that way, of which there was little likelihood, he must lie in that position till he died. In this emergency he resorted to his never-failing resource, prayer. He accordingly offered up a short supplication to his heavenly Father for deliverance. When he had concluded, turning his thoughts again to consider the means of escape, he thought that he would make one more effort to extricate himself. He accordingly drew up the leg that was at liberty, and placed the foot against the horse’s body, so as to be able to press against him with all his force. When the horse next struggled, he accordingly pushed against him with the one foot, and endeavoured at the same time to drag the other out, and after a little effort succeeded. When he was free, himself, he succeeded in getting up the horse; and mounting him, he proceeded to the West River, a distance of about eight miles, and by the time he arrived at the house of Mr. Robert Stewart, where he was to preach, his clothes were frozen on him. He warmed himself at the fire, and without changing his clothes preached two sermons.

Such exposure was fitted to destroy any constitution, and we need not wonder that his strength began to give way. Much of the hardship he endured was unavoidable, but we fear that at this time he had not learned sufficiently the duty of using all the means in his power for the preservation of his health. In after years he was careful in attending to this duty himself, and urging it upon others, as the following incident will show. On one occasion assisting Mr. Brown at a sacrament, the latter, who was usually punctual, having been detained, was obliged to hurry, and when he came to the chureh was over-heated. The church was so crowded that when he entered it, he felt a perfect steam issuing from the door. He went up to the pulpit and preached with energy, so that between the exertion he had previously made, the state of the church, and his energy in preaching, the perspiration was actually dropping from his clothes before he was done. When the service was over, the Doctor said to him in his own impressive way, “Mr. Brown, you’ve been serving the Devil to-day.” “What do you mean?” “Why, just that you have been doing Satan’s work.” “How so?” “Do you not know that it is the wish of Satan to cut short the lives of God’s ministers, and that is just what you have been doing.” But, in the early years of his ministry, being young and vigorous, he seems not always to have exercised the precautions which he might have done. In his old age he used to blame the hardships and exposure of these years, most of which were unavoidable, as the cause of the premature breaking down of his frame.

At all events, to his other difficulties was now added failing health. For some time, particularly during this summer (1793), the state of his health was such as to alarm both himself and his friends. Continued spitting of blood, with weakness and other symptoms, produced an impression that he was going into a decline. The Rev. Samuel Gilfillan, writing under date 22nd April, 1795, says: “Your father and I received your letters, dated at Pictou, December 8th and 9th, 1794, about the beginning of March last, and we were very glad to hear from you. Your father was wearying very much to hear from you, and was very anxious about your health, as your letters of 1793 seemed to insinuate that you were not in a good way on account of a consumption. But we were all happily disappointed in our fears, when you informed us that your health was re-established, and that you had been enabled to go through so much of your Waster’s work in visiting St. John’s Island,” &c. And the Rev. A. Pringle, writing about the same time, says, “It grieved me to the heart to hear that your health was hut in an indifferent state.”

We have no record of his feelings by himself, but persons still living recollect, that he was often in considerable sadness, especially in view of the prospects of the congregation. He had already seen the fruit of his labours in a population trained in industry and morality, and a congregation gathered requiring the services of two ministers. He had planted the gospel in other places around, and saw them earnestly stretching out their hands, with the importunate cry, “ Come over and help us.” Yet his most earnest petitions for brethren to come to his assistance, repeated during seven weary years, had proved fruitless, and he saw little hope of any better success for future applications. In view then of his removal, he saw nothing before his flock, but to be scattered as sheep wanting a shepherd, and the work on which he had spent so much toil, and which now promised so well, interrupted, if not entirely arrested, and Zion again becoming a desolation. Doubtless he did not lose his faith in the wisdom of the Great Head of the Church, and his ability to supply them ; but the failure of all past attempts was sufficiently trying to his faith, and discouraging to his hope, and we need not wonder that he was dispirited. But though “ east* down he was not destroyed,” and still he toiled on, though sometimes ready to give up, both from weakness of body and fainting of spirit. His good friend Donald was ever ready to encourage him. One day the Doctor said to him that he believed he would have to give up. “No, no,” said Donald, “hold on while you can, and give up when you must.”

The sympathies of the people were drawn out strongly toward him. Indeed it was only then, that he saw the hold which his work had taken upon the minds of the community, and the place which personally he had gained in the hearts of the whole population. Then only they became conscious of the depth of their feelings toward him. This was evinced in a very lively manner on one occasion at the Loch Broom church. During the time of preaching a faintness came over him. He laid down the Bible on a table before him, and requested the people to sing a part of the sixty-second Psalm,

“My soul with expectation
Depends on God indeed, See.”

and went out into the open air. The congregation was deeply agitated, as my informant said, many, whom no one would have thought, shedding tears. He went to the brook near by, and took a drink of water, and in a little feeling better^he returned and resumed his discourse as usual.

He of course used all means for his recovery, and among them all the compounds that the skill of female herbists deemed suitable; and through the kindness of Providence, by the next season his health was re-established, and continued good till near the close of his life.

Advancing to the next year we find the following among his Memorabilia:

“In June 1794, at the time of the Sacrament, the Lord granted me a happy confluence of favours.

“1. He removed a trial which had been productive of much grief and sin, and from which I got the deliverance mentioned in the preceding paragraph.

"2. Being apprehensive of the want of wine for the Sacrament, there being none nearer than Halifax, I met Robert Marshall arrived with it, just as I was ready to begin the public work of the fast day.

“3. I received letters giving an account of the Synod’s appointing three ministers to Nova Scotia.

“4. There came a greater number of strangers to the Sacrament, than at any time hitherto.

“5. There was no observable disturbance of public worship by sickness, fainting, or any thing, as happened for several years before.

“6. The whole work was conducted as agreeably and comfortably as ever. Much outward and I trust inward (comfort) was graciously granted.” -

This summer as usual his attention was occupied with missionary labour as will be seen by his narrative.

“1794. This year petitions for sermon were presented before the session from St. John’s Island, Cape Breton, Amherst, and Londonderry. Sir. Smith, minister of Londonderry, was unable to labour. His congregation took little interest in the controversy about the burgess oath, otherwise they would not have applied to me for preaching. The session was at a loss how to do with so many petitions, and I was grieved for want of help from the Synod. Thinking Cape Breton and St. John’s Island the most needful, they appointed me two Sabbaths to Cape Breton, and four to St. John’s or Prince Edward Island. I could get no opportunity of a passage to Cape Breton, I therefore went to Prince Edward Island. I found St. Peter’s and Cove Head much in the same state in which I had left them. I was chiefly anxious about the people of Princetown, as I had enlisted them without much opportunity of knowing the Redeemer’s standard, and was afraid that many had deserted. What accounts I had heard were favourable, but I did not know if they were true.

“When I had reached within about sixteen miles of Princetown I met a man who, after salutations, told me that he was in such distress about his sins that he could not have patience till I reached the settlement, but had come off to me as soon as he heard that I had come to the island, in the hope that I might be the means of giving him some relief. I asked if he had been long distressed. He said he had been uneasy for above a year, but that the last two months he was in great anxiety, and that he was every day getting -worse and worse, and saw no outgate for himself. lie bewailed much the -waywardness of his heart in all his attempts to pray and repent. He said, that -when most desirous to pray, he could not fix his heart; and so his most earnest attempts to repent were rendered utterly unavailing. I was truly glad to hear him going on with a most pitiful relation of his ease. 'When he finished I paused a little, and said, ‘ It seems to me that you are a lost sinner; I know nothing for you but to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.’ With the utmost surprise he replied, ‘What! would you have me to believe as I am?’ ‘Yes,’ said I, ‘just as you are, for you can never prepare yourself for it more than you are just now.’ I endeavoured to show him that he mistook the character of the Saviour when he thought he durst not believe till he had prepared himself for it by prayer and repentance ; that salvation was the gift of God, through Christ, to lost .sinners; and if he was a lost sinner, he was as welcome to it as any other, for there was no respect of persons with God. I endeavoured to show him that God suited his salvation to the needs of lost sinners, and to their bad rather than their good qualifications, for he knew that a sinner could have none of these till Himself should bestow them upon him; that salvation, and faith, and repentance, and good designs, are all the gifts of God, and freely offered to him in the gospel, and that he ought thankfully and without delay to accept of them; that if he would do so, he would be happy from that moment, and if he would not, all his attempts to pray and repent would be lost labour. In a word, I preached the gospel to him, and his anxiety began to abate.

“I asked if my labours in Princetown had seemed to do good since I left them. He told me there was a considerable change for the better among them. I went on the rest of my way rejoicing in hope. When I arrived among them, I found that the greater part, by far, had persevered and grown in knowledge beyond my expectation, though a few had neglected their baptismal engagements. I visited as many of them as I could, exhorting them to grow in grace. They were anxious to know if there was any word of a minister for them. I told them there was none, and advised them to commit the case to God in prayer, as He was the best provider of ministers. I supplied several new places with sermon, as Bedeque, Tryon River, &c.”

He has here set down his visit to Prince Edward Island, in 1794, as his second, but the old settlers of George Town, or Three Rivers, maintain that he visited that district in the preceding year, so that this must have been his third visit. The fact is, that he had gone so many times, and his narrative being written after his memory had failed, he sometimes mistook the year of his visits, and sometimes confounded the events of two different journeys. The remainder of this narrative was written after he had had a stroke of paralysis, and though some of his most interesting and laborious journeys were taken after this date, yet the narrative is meagre, and without that minuteness of detail, and vividness of description, which renders the former portions so interesting. Even of his visits at this time to Prince Edward Island, much is omitted. We shall supply what we are able.

As just mentioned, the old settlers of George Town maintain, that he first visited that settlement in 1793. He was piloted through the woods from Charlotte Town, there being no path. The settlers were then few in number. The first settlement had been made by Mr. David Higgins, iu the year 1769. He had a small vessel and established a small fishing station at St. Andrews’ Point, on the place now occupied by the Hon. Joseph Wightman. In July, 1775, arrived a number of emigrants from Dumfriesshire, sent out by the proprietor of the lot on the north side of Montague River. In the following spring a number of them moved over to Pictou, and others went to neighbouring settlements. Those who remained, were, during the next winter, reduced to the utmost extremity for want of provisions, having been obliged to cut through ice on the shore, four feet thick, to dig up clams. An opportune supply of provisions in the following spring in Mr. Higgins’ vessel, preserved them from starvation, and the new crop coming to their assistance, they from that period began to surmount their difficulties. Still, even at this period, the number of inhabitants was very small. He preached in the parlour of the house, now occupied by the Hon. Joseph Wightman, then occupied by Mr. David Irving. That parlour, which is by no means large, contained all the adult population of Three Rivers. This was the first sermon ever preached in the district. All the Dumfries settlers were Presbyterians, and listened with eagerness to the word of life, some of them not having heard a sermon since they left their native land, eighteen years before.

He remained among them several days, engaged as usual. He preached on a week-day before he left, and baptized a number of children. One child he refused to baptize because the father would not make affidavit that he had been married to the child’s mother. But the most interesting cireumstance of his visit was that on it he was the means of bringing to the knowledge of the truth, a poor slave of the name of Sickles, owned by Mr. William Creed, a gentleman who had emigrated from Boston. When on a visit on the following year, he baptized him, and through his influence with his master succeeded iu obtaining his liberty. Sickles always retained a warm feeling of veneration for the Doctor, and always spoke of him as his spiritual father.

We may mention here that on the Doctor’s next visit in the year 1800, when he was about leaving for Pictou, in Mr. David Irving’s boat, Mrs. Creed sent him a present of a lamb, by the hand of Sickles, who though now free was still in the employment of his former master; and the Doctor, it was supposed, thinking the lamb to be Sickles’ own gift, but we would rather believe, from his own interest in the individual, sent him by return of the boat from Pictou, a copy of “Boston’s Fourfold State.” From this volume and the Bible, Sickles matured his views of Christian doctrine and duty. He lived a consistent life to a very great age, and died in full hope of a glorious resurrection. That volume is still preserved in the pious negro’s family.

We shall conclude this chapter by recording an incident which must have occurred on one of these journeys. There is some dispute about the place where it occurred, and the individual who was the subject of it. We have formed our own conclusion on these points. But we content ourselves with giving the incident as we have received it, merely remarking that as we have heard it from different persons, as told by the Doctor himself, and with the same details, there cannot be the least doubt of its truth.

In travelling from one settlement to another in company with a guide, they unexpectedly discovered that they had lost their way. As commonly happens with persons travelling in the woods, they had come back upon their own track. The guide was surprised. He said he knew every step of the way, and he could not understand how he had missed it, but proposed to try it again. They did so, but with the same result. The man said, “That’s very strange, I know the way perfectly, but you have been talking to me, and I must have missed the path attending to what you were saying. We’ll try it again, and don’t say any thing to me.” They made a third attempt, but with little better result, and this time night came on. Coming upon the hut of a new settler, they resolved to remain there all night. They went in, and the guide introduced him as Mr. MacGregor, a minister from Pictou. The owner of the house received him very ungraciously, and showed no disposition to retain him. “Oh,” said the Doctor, “it is now late, and you would not turn us out.” The man consented to entertain them for the night, but with no great cordiality. In the morning he told them that they were going to have “a raising,” that is, to erect a frame; and as they were scarce of hands, he thought, that, in return for the entertainment of the night, they ought to lend their assistance. The Doctor consented, judging that all the men in the neighbourhood would be present, (if not the women also as was sometimes necessary in those days,) and that he might thus have an opportunity of addressing a word of exhortation to those assembled. It turned out to be a frolic, and that rum was supplied in abundance. When the frame was raised, the liquor beginning to operate, some of them began to quarrel, and were likely to get into a fight. Partly to draw them off from their purpose, he proposed to preach to them. He, accordingly took out his pocket-bible, and laying it upon a stump, lie gave out a psalm, which he sang himself. He then prayed and gave out a text. A few of the more moderate attended to him from the beginning, but most stood aloof. His singing attracted some attention, and some began to come nearer to him. Still, even when he be^an his sermon some were looking on with indifference, and his host of the preceding night among the most distant. As he went on with his discourse, the company began to draw nearer, until, before he was done, he had them all close around him, with upturned faces, eagerly listening to the word of life. His host the night before was the last to come in, but ultimately he joined the rest.

When the service was over, he came up to the Doctor and said, “I want you to come back and stay with me to night.” The Doctor replied, “ Why, I came to your house last night, and you were unwilling to keep me.” “I know I was,” said the man, “ but I was wrong. I heard part of your sermon today, and I should have heard the whole of it. I want you to come and stay with me to night, and tell me more of what you were telling to day.” The man also argued that he could not reach the place at which he intended to preach in time to have service that day, but that word could be circulated of preaching on the following day, and that he would then go with him to conduct him. The Doctor felt it his duty to comply with the request thus urgently made, and accordingly spent most of the night with him in religious conversation. It was a night of gladness in that cottage. That night “salvation came to that house.” “The day spring from on high” visited that humble abode; “the -wilderness and the solitary place were glad/' for the messenger of salvation, and there was “joy in the presence of the angels of God, over a sinner repenting.” We know not how long the man’s anxiety continued, but we know that ultimately he was “filled with joy and peace in believing.” He not only accompanied the Doctor to preaching on the following day, but eagerly waited on him in all his ministrations during the time of his visit. It is also said that he afterward bore the character of a pious man till the end of his days, and that he was an influential member of the church. It is also said that whenever he had the opportunity he was very attentive to Doctor MacGregor, and that the very spot on which that frame was raised was afterward the site of a church.

This narrative suggests several reflections. It affords an exemplification of the remarkable manner in which Providence orders events for gathering his chosen into his fold. How strange, that the minister’s guide losing his way should be the means by which God would bring salvation to that man! But, wherever there is an elect soul, God is never at a loss for means to accomplish his purpose of mercy with regard to it. Some of the circumstances in the train of events by which his designs arc carried out, may seem trifling, but none of them are accidental. They all form part of that scheme of Providence, which is but the execution of that “eternal purpose which God had purposed in himself before the world began.” It also shows the propriety of ministers embracing every opportunity afforded in Providence for preaching the gospel. Pew would have deemed “a frolic” on the occasion of raising a frame, a suitable occasion for proclaiming Christ crucified. But we see what happy results flowed from embracing such an opportunity. How appropriate the apostolic injunction, “Preach the gospel; be instant in season, and out of season!" It also shows that we should not despair of the salvation of any, even of those whose characters appear most unpromising. Divine grace is sovereign in its choice, and often those whom we least expect are made the monuments of the Spirit’s power.

The short account which he gives of his labours during the winter of 1795, will conclude our history of those years when he laboured alone, in many respects the most important of his life.

“1795.—Things went on agreeably in my own congregation at home. This winter I met with a providence, simple and kind, which was a great encouragement to me. On Friday it came a deep snow, and on Saturday a strong thaw, that made the snow so heavy as to render the snow-shoes useless. I fretted much on Saturday. My only consolation was, that many of the people would not attend. I went to bed, believing that it was quite impossible for me to preach at the West River on the following day; but during the night it froze very hard, so that the snow was perfectly capable of bearing me without snow-shoes. I went to the church with a light step, and a light heart, met a considerable congregation, and preached with pleasure.”


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