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Memoir of the Rev James MacGregor D.D.
Chapter XX. - Later Missionary Journeys - Publication of Gaelic Poems - 1816 - 1821


“So that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.” Rom. xv. 19.

We have mentioned at the close of the last chapter, that during the years in which his congregation was so much agitated at home, he undertook several excursions abroad. We shall now proceed to give an account of these, as well as of some other of his later missionary journeys.

During each of the years 1816, 1817, and 1819, he made a tour of a considerable part of Prince Edward Island. Since the beginning of the century, there had been an influx of immigrants from the Highlands of Scotland, who had formed a number of new settlements chiefly in the south-eastern part of the Island, which now form flourishing congregations. It was to these that his efforts on these journeys were chiefly directed.

On the occasion of his journey in 1817, he proceeded along with Doctor Keir to Miramichi for the induction of the Rev. James Thompson. Intimation of the appointment was conveyed to Doctor Keir in the following terms :

East River of Pictou, July 16th, 1817.

Dear Sir :—I am appointed by the Presbytery to take the first good opportunity of going to Princetown, and there to inform Rev. Mr. Keir, that he and one of his elders are also appointed to repair to Miramichi as soon as possible, and there to judge of a call given to Mr. Thomson, and, if it be sustained, to proceed with all convenient speed to the instalment of the said Mr. Thomson, as minister of Miramiehi. You will, therefore, immediately proceed to provide a boat, and an elder, with yourself, that when I come there may be as little delay as possible. Expecting to sec you soon, I remain, Yours, &c.,

James MacGregor.

Pray.

"We question if the whole rolls of epistolary correspondence will afford an example of the condensation of as much important advice in as small compass as in the above Postscript. In going to Miramiehi, they experienced a remarkable instance of the care of divine Providence. They took passage from Bedeque in a new vessel going to the former place to take in cargo. She had not sufficient ballast, but they had a pleasant voyage, and dreamed not of danger. But scarcely had they landed from her till she capsized in the river, filled and sank to the bottom, not however in deep water, but she was only raised with great difficulty.

They returned in an open boat, to Princetown, a distance of about one hundred and twenty miles. In the passage over he lay down on the stones of the ballast, and slept soundly, though he awoke to find his elbow on which be was leaning having the skin rubbed off. From Princetown he proceeded to New London where he preached on Saturday. Returning thence he preached on Sabbath at Princetown for Doctor Keir. On their way home from the church he remarked in a very thoughtful manner to Doctor Keir, “Here we are so earnest in preaching to these people, and yet some of them will be damned.”

He left the following week for the settlements already referred to in the eastern part of the Island, from which he got a passage to Pictou. On his return home he thus writes to Doctor Keir, under date Nov. 3d:

“I must begin by begging pardon for neglecting so long to write. My work was far behind when I came home, and besides I had to take a journey to visit a small settlement of Highlanders, who had not heard a sermon these fifteen years.

“The Sabbath after I parted with you, I preached at the West River,1 to a considerable congregation of English, and a larger congregation, much larger than I expected, of Gaelic hearers. Were they true blue, they would be sufficient with Tryon, to maintain a minister, but I fear that the Highlanders will not do much. We have, however, no Gaelic minister to send to them, or to Belfast. Mr. Paxton writes us that we can get no Gaelic preacher. Belfast was in much the same state as last year, desirous of getting a minister, but not overwhelmed with liberality. Let us pray to God to provide for them.”

The settlement of Belfast, which he visited on both these occasions, was founded in the year 1803, by a number of families from the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, who were sent out by the Earl of Selkirk. So judicious were the arrangements made, that they escaped in a great measure the hardships endured by the early settlers in other places. It may not be going too far out of our way to give the Earl’s own account of the formation of the settlement:

“These persons, amounting to about eight hundred persons of all ages, reached the island in three ships on the 7th, 9th, and 27th August, 1803. It had been my intention to come to the Island some time before any of the settlers, in order that every requisite preparation might be made. In this, however, a number of untoward circumstances occurred to disappoint me; and on arriving at the capital of the Island, I learned that the ship of most importance had just arrived, and the passengers were landing at a place previously appointed for the purpose. I lost no time in proceeding to the spot, where I found that the people had already lodged themselves in temporary wigwams, composed of poles and branches.

“The settlers had spread themselves along the shore for the distance of half a mile, upon the site of an old French village, which had been destroyed and abandoned after the capture of the Island by the British forces in 1758. The land which had formerly been overgrown with wood, was overgrown again with thickets of young trees, interspersed with grassy glades. I arrived at the place late in the evening, and it had then a very striking appearance. Each family had kindled a large fire near the wigwams and around these were assembled groups of figures, whose peculiar national dress added to the singularity of the surrounding scene; confused heaps of baggage were every where piled together beside their wild habitations, and, by the number of fires, the whole woods were illuminated. At the end of the line of encampment, I pitched my own tent, and was surrounded in the morning by a numerous assemblage of people, whose behaviour indicated that they looked lo nothing less than the restoration of the happy days of clanship. * * These hardy people thought little of the inconvenience they felt from the slightness of the shelter they had put up for themselves.”

After stating numerous difficulties attending the location of the emigrants, his Lordship proceeds:

“I could not but regret the time which had been lost, but I had satisfaction in reflecting, that the settlers had begun the culture of their farms with their little capital unimpaired. I quitted the Island in September 1803, and after an extensive tour on the continent of America, returned at the end of the same month in the following year. It was with the utmost satisfaction I then found that my plans had been followed up with attention and judgment. I found the settlers engaged in securing the harvest which their industry had produced. There were three or four families, who had not gathered a crop adequate to their own supply, but many others had a considerable superabundance.”

At the time of their settlement there were three families of Roman Catholics there, who left this part of the Island almost immediately after. At this time all the settlers, with the exception of three or four families of Baptists, were Presbyterians adhering to the Church of Scotland. At first both parties met in one house together on the Lord’s day for reading and prayer. After the arrival of one or two itinerant self-taught, self-assumed preachers this harmony ceased, and they have since met in different places.

By the time Doctor MacGregor arrived the people had made considerable progress, but it is said that there was not a horse in the district, and none till within a few miles of Charlotte Town. There was neither road nor bridge, so that persons had to travel along the shore round the creeks or through the wood, by narrow paths. A church had previously been erected at Point Prim, at the instance of a Doctor Macaulay, who had been chaplain in the army for some time, and who preached there statedly, but who seems to have attended as much to the medical profession, as to ministerial duties.

The Rev. Alexander MacKay, lately minister at Belfast, informs me, that he preached one Gaelic sermon on each of his visits, the first time in the church at Point Prim, the second in a house at Little Belfast—that his first sermon was on the Church of Laodicea, and the second on “the Prodigal Son." He adds, “His sermons on these occasions are said to have made a very favourable impression, and arc represented as very plain, faithful, and powerful. On these occasions he also baptized five or six children.”

Another person remembers a sermon preached there on one of his visits, from Phil. iii. 13, 14, many remarks in which he is still able to rehearse. "We may add that the people there afterward received the Rev. John Maclennan, a minister of the Church of Scotland, and have since been supplied by ministers from that body.

In the year 1819, he proceeded to Prince Edward Island for the ordination of the Rev. Andrew Nicoll, a preacher from the Associate Synod in Scotland, who had been called to the pastoral charge of the congregation of Richmond Bay, which had hitherto been a portion of Doctor Keir’s congregation. On this occasion he also traversed the southern shore, as we have positive information of his preaching at Woodville, then called Wood Island. This was not his first visit to that quarter, and he visited them three times, preaching once, twice, or oftener as opportunity offered, his stay being generally short. This being the nearest point of the Island to Pictou, the people there generally conveyed him home in their boats.

The people here were originally from the Island of Colonsa, from which they had emigrated to this place about the year 1800. They were then in very humble circumstances, and their religious condition was more destitute still. There was no Presbyterian minister settled in any part of the southern coast, and they had only heard two or three sermons from the time of their arrival until he visited them.

On his visit in 1819 he preached twice, once in the house of Mr. Malcolm MacMillan, and once in the open air. The text in the house was, Hos. xiii. 9, “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself, but in me is thy help.” About this sermon one man says, that it was the first he ever heard; not that he never heard preaching before, but as he remarks, “ I listened to it throughout, and though I cannot say that it made any decided impression upon me, I can say that I was never after so indifferent hearing the word of God as before.”

On one visit he preached from Isa. lvii. 3, 4, and spoke very freely against sorcery. One effect of the sermon was that a man who professed to be skilled in magic, renounced the practice ever after. The following incident may also be inserted. On one of his visits he gave out that he would preach, but so busy were the people with their fishing, that some supposed that it was useless to try to collect them for preaching. He said, however, that he would preach to the few that would come. He accordingly preached, but as was expected to a very small congregation; but it so happened that those who preferred the fishes to the bread of life, had nothing for their trouble. No fish were taken, which the people generally regarded as a judgment upon them. The Rev. D. MacNeill, of Woodville, to whom I am indebted for the information as to his visits there, adds, “His memory is still held in grateful remembrance by not a few here.”

He had also previously visited St. Mary's, but the exact dates of his visits we have not ascertained. The first settlers there came from Truro and built the first house at Glenelg in the year 1801. They were attracted thither by the large amount of Intervale on the banks of the river, and the superior timber abounding around. There were then two fishermen’s huts at the lower part of the river, one at Sherbrooke, and the other four miles farther down. The Rev. John Waddell, who had been their minister in Truro, was the first to preach the gospel to them in their new home, but Doetor MacGregor visited them several times, particularly after settlers began to move thither from the East River, and other parts of Pictou. He preached in private houses at Glenelg and Sherbrooke. On his first visit the population was extremely scanty, a good sized room being capable of holding all the population capable of attending preaching. He also preached on the eastern branch of the river, and at Lochaber which had been settled by Highland immigrants. There was then no road along the river. He travelled along its banks on horseback, and from their steepness in many places it was frequently necessary to cross the river, to where the ground on its edge was lower. On one occasion on reaching the head of the river, he remarked that he had crossed the river sixteen times.

On one of his trips, either going or returning through the woods between the East River and St. Mary’s, in company with the late Alexander Grant, he nearly gave out entirely. It was late in the fall, and though they were on horseback, yet the travelling was so bad, that he became so exhausted, that it was with difficulty he reached the place to which they were going. Though he still enjoyed good health, yet his constitution was in a great measure broken, not only by increasing years, but by the hardships he had undergone, and he was not able to stand the fatigues which he bore so easily in the days of his strength. Indeed as early as the year 1816, his letters speak of his finding his constitution giving way.

On one of his visits going by the East River of St. Mary’s, he and his companions stopped in a small hut which had been erected for the accommodation of travellers by the late Surveyor General, on a lot of land owned by him, at what is now called the Garden of Eden. Some of those who were with him, speaking of the roughness of the country at that time, said that it was not likely that they would ever see a road there. u Oh,” he replied, “you may see a church on this very spot yet.” Curiously enough the present church at the Garden of Eden is built on the very site of that hut.

In the year 1818 he made his second missionary journey through Cape Breton.

He crossed from Antigonish Harbour to Port Hood in a boat. On the way over he was as usual engaged in religious conversation. Having spoken of our natural character, a woman who was present in the boat could not be persuaded that she had a bad heart. He laboured hard to convince her of the fact, with what success we have not ascertained.

The first settlement on the north coast of Cape Breton, was made by a Jersey company at Cheticamp, their settlers being chiefly French Catholics. The next was a Captain Smith, in 1787, who came from Truro but who was originally from Cape Cod. At the time of the Doctor’s visit, there were five or six Protestant families at Port Hood, ten or twelve at Mabou, and about as many at Margaree. With these exceptions, the whole coast from Cheticamp to the Strait of Canso, was settled by Scotch Catholics from Lochaber, Strathglass, and some of the Western Islands of Scotland.

The country was then in a very low state. There was not a road any where, and most of the travelling was iu boats along shore. The moral and social condition of the people was not any better. As one described it to me, “there was neither law nor gospel, but might made right.”

On landing at Port Hood he proceeded to the south-west branch of the Mabou river, through the woods. Here he met Captain Worth mentioned in a previous part of the narrative as having been the means of giving him a passage from Charlotte Town. He lodged in his house and there preached his first sermon. While there he baptized his family, and it may be mentioned, that his descendants now form a large portion of the Presbyterian congregation of Mabou. From the southwest branch of Mabou, he went in a boat to the south-east branch of the same river. Here he spent ten days visiting and preaching, and then returned to Port Hood. He visited and held religious exercises in every house in Mabou during his stay there, and likely the same in Port Hood. This was the first preaching that had ever been enjoyed there, and the young people, even those arrived at the age of manhood, had never heard a sermon. It made a deep impression upon many. One sermon is particularly spoken of. It was on the words of the apostle, 2 Cor. ii. 15, 16. “For we are unto God a sweet savour in Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish; to the one we are the savour of death unto death, and to the other the savour of life unto life.”

The Catholics who were settled along the shore were of the same class, and many of them the same individuals who had landed at Pictou, and were so kindly treated by the Doctor and his congregation. He found among them a grateful recollection of his kindness. On his way returning, one man, named Hugh MacLean, took him from Judique to the Strait, a distance of twelve miles, on his horse, and walked himself to take back the animal.

From the Strait of Canso, he proceeded to visit two settlements of Protestant Highlanders, one at River Inhabitants, about twelve miles from the Strait, and the other at West Bay, about eight miles farther on. There was then no road between either of these places, the blaze being the traveller’s only guide. A man named MacMillan, took him on horseback to River Inhabitants. He used to relate the following incident as having taken place here: Some time after dark he and his guide arrived at the edge of a stream which they saw no means of crossing. By the light of the moon they observed a house on the other side. On calling loudly a man came out, of whom they enquired if there was any way of crossing. The man answered “No,” but added the enquiry, “Who are you?” The Doctor’s companion replied, “This is Doctor MacGregor, a minister from Pictou.” The man immediately entered the house, and forthwith two stout young fellows came out, who ran down to the stream, waded across, and one taking the Doctor on his shoulders, and the other his companion, carried them across. The family were Highland Catholics, and entertained them as well as they could that night, and in the morning the man volunteered to go with him to the Presbyterian settlement to which he was going. The Doctor offered to pay him for his kindness, but he refused, and asked him if he did not remembcr giving such a poor man an axe and a hoe. He added that he was happy to have it in his power to make some return for his kindness.

With one or two exceptions the settlers both at River Inhabitants and West Bay were Highlanders. There were over twenty families at the latter place, the number at the former we have not ascertained, but it is said to have been considerable. Most of them had come thither by way of Pictou, having resided there for longer or shorter periods, during which they had been under the ministry of Doctor MacGregor, and some of them looked to him as the instrument of their first saving convictions of divine truth. They were generally poor and still contending with the difficulties of a new settlement. Several of the heads of families were decidedly pious. Being few in number and all of one religious persuasion, they lived in peace and harmony.

From the time of their settlement here they had not heard a sermon till he visited them, and from the whole circumstances we may judge that his coming was the occasion of much joy. He could, however, remain but a short time with them. He spent one Sabbath at River Inhabitants, and preached in a barn belonging to Mr. Adam MacPherson, both in English and Gaelic. In English he lectured on Rom. v. 1-11; dwelling particularly on verse 8. Some of the people at West Bay came through to hear him. On the Tuesday following he went to West Bay, and preached again, both in Gaelic and English, in a barn belonging to one Macintosh. His subject here in the former language was Luke xix. 9, u This day is salvation come to this house, forasmuch as he also is a son of Abraham,” with a comment on the whole passage, from the first to the tenth verse. On this occasion he told them that one of his objects in visiting them was to urge upon them to continue steadfast in their Protestant profession, as he knew that they were surrounded by Papists on all hands.

At that time there were not any Protestant settlers on the south side of the Bras d'or Lake, from West Bay to Sydney, a distance of eighty miles, the whole shore being occupied by Romanists; while the north side of the Luke, where are now the settlements of Malagawatch, River Dennis, and Whycogomah, is described as a terra incognita. Unless there were a Church of England minister at Sydney, there was not a Protestant minister on the Island.

Immediately after preaching he left West Bay on his return home, being anxious to get a passage from the Strait in a vessel, which he expected to pass through on her way to Pictou. On his departure, John MacLeod, one of his old acquaintances, offered to accompany him to the Strait, but the Doctor would not allow him. After MacLeod had accompanied him a mile or two the Doctor proceeded alone, and on foot; his only guides being the blaze and a pocket-compass.

The whole time spent on this mission we know not, but he speaks in one of his letters of “six Sabbaths, and some week-day sermons, being all the Calvinistic gospel that ever Cape Breton enjoyed,” by which we presume he describes his own two visits. In another place he speaks of having on this visit met persons over twenty years of age that had never heard a sermon. This must have been at Mabou, which had been settled for a longer period than the other places visited.

In the year 1821 he paid his last visit to Prince Edward Island. Circumstances had rendered Mr. Pidgeon’s resignation of the charge of the congregation of St. Peter’s advisable, and the Rev. Robert Douglas had been called to be his successor. The Rev. Mr. Nicoll had died after about a year’s service, and Mr. William MacGregor, a preacher from the General Associate Synod, had accepted a call to be his successor. Doctor MacGregor went over to take part at the induction of the former, and the ordination of the latter. On the latter occasion, on the 11th October, 1821, the Presbytery of Prince Edward Island was constituted according to a deed of Synod. This was to him a matter of great joy. When we consider the “ long desolations” of the Island, and his many toilsome journeys in planting and watering the good seed of the gospel truth among its inhabitants, we need not wonder that he should be filled with gratitude to God, at seeing the church thus completely established there, and that he should feel as if his work in that part of the church was done.

This may be considered as the conclusion of his missionary journeys, which, for about thirty-three years, had engaged so much of his time. Of the extent of his labours in this respect, we may judge from a statement in his letter to the Glasgow Colonial Society, written about the year 1827, that he had “visited all the Highland Settlements of any consequence (and some of them often) in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Cape Breton, excepting some which have been made within these few years, since old age has impaired my vigour.” Though, however, he took no journeys after this date to places at a distance, yet, besides regularly and fully discharging the duties of his congregation, he visited places around. He still enjoyed good health, and his activity seemed scarcely diminished, but it was now directed more to the promotion of the general interests of the church, than to toilsome journeys for which he had not now the bodily vigour necessary.

Previous to this, however, he had sent to the press his Gaelic poems, by which he has had and continues still to have no small usefulness. With an intense desire for the good of his countrymen, he had always taken a deep interest in every measure having that object in view, and especially in what concerned their spiritual welfare. He had spent his life in toiling for the salvation, especially, of those of them who had become expatriated to the Colonies, but he desired also to do something himself for those whom he had left in his native land. With this view he had several years before conceived the idea of rendering the doctrines of the gospel into Gaelic verse, adapted to the music most common among them, as has been expressed, “that he might unite the best lessons with the sweetest melodies of his native land.” These poems be had partly composed years before, as he says, “in part, when travelling the dreary forests of America.” An individual informs me that going through the woods on a very dark night, he heard a kind of singing, and in a little came upon the Doctor who was riding on horseback, and humming over portions of his poems as he composed them. As he had obtained a little more leisure to study, he had carefully revised them. From the MSS. in our possession it appears that some of them were copied several times. As early as the year 1814 we find him submitting some of them to competent Gaelic scholars. His design as well as the execution of it, having met their approval, lie accordingly put the work to press under the title, “Dain a chomhnadh erabhuidh,” about the year 1818.

The copyright of this little work was given to the Glasgow Tract Society, so long as they should be diligent in circulating it. The following list of the titles of the several poems will give the English reader an idea of the volume:

1. The sum of the law.

2. The ten commandments.

3. Praise of the law.

4. The covenant of works.

5. The covenant of grace.

6. Sin—in two parts.

7. On the evil heart.

8. The gospel.

“Glad tidings of great joy which shall be to all people.”

“He will save his people from their sins.”

9. Faith.

“Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”

“Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”

10. Unbelief.

“He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

“Because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.”

11. The complaint.

“Who shall deliver me from this body of death?”

12. Christ’s righteousness.

“That I may be found in him, not having mine own righteousness which is of the law, but the righteousness which is of God by faith.

13. The work of the Spirit.

“He saved us by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost.”

“Your heavenly Father shrill give his Spirit to them that ask him.”

11. Grace commended.

“My grace shall be sufficient for thee.”

15. The graces commended.

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.”

16. Gospel questions, or, Christ all in all; from the English of Ralph Erskine.

17. The love of God—in three parts.

“God is love.”

18. Death.

“I know that thou wilt bring me to death.”

19. The resurrection.

“The hour comethi, and now is, when they that are in their graves shall hear the voice of the Son of man, and they that hear shall live.”

20. The judgment.

“We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, to give an account of the deeds done in the body, whether they be good or whether they be evil.”

21. Heaven.

22. Hell.

23. Spread of the Bible and the gospel.

We applied to a competent Gaelic scholar, the Rev. John MacKinnon, for a critical estimate of these poems, who has sent us the following, which, though written in the style of panegyric, indicative of the warmth of his Highland feelings, expresses, we believe, the views held of them generally by unprejudiced Highlanders:

“These poems are not a conglomerate or an omnigatherum, consisting of isolated and fragmentary thoughts, composed on special occasions and on special subjects. On the contrary they are a concise, but comprehensive system of divinity, connected and arranged in systematic order. They appear to be the developments of one conception, carried out according to an original design. They advance no claims to distinguished literary pretensions, or the higher flights of poetic genius, though they are by no means destitute of both. They are the products of a mind richly stored with gospel truths, and possessing the singular facility of expressing these in simple, sweet, and harmonious melody. In these poems the fundamental doctrines of Christianity are defined, illustrated, and earnestly inculcated in a manner perfectly intelligible to the ignorant and most ordinary intellects. The style is simple, terse, and vigorous. It is almost entirely free from foreign words and idioms. In the versification the rhythm is gently flowing and melodious. So that in whatever metre the poem is composed, the verse is agreeable and harmonious, while, at the same time, each word selected is the very best to express the particular idea intended. The subject of each poem is a fundamental doctrine: such as faith, the covenant of works, the covenant of grace, &c.

It required no ordinary amount of natural talent, and a minute and comprehensive knowledge of the whole Gaelic language, to produce these poems. They visibly bear the stamp of originality. There is not the least appearance of slavish imitation about them. They are the spontaneous gushings of a heart, overflowing with the tenderest affection for expatriated fellow countrymen, finding expressions only in harmonious and holy song. They have the singular felicity of touching the tenderest chords of the heart, of evoking its deepest and warmest sympathies, and kindling its partially smothered devotional feelings into a burning holy flame. They arc literally a “speaking from the heart to the heart.” It is almost impossible for a Highlander to read them through unaffected or unmoved.

Many of the Highlanders who originally immigrated to this Province did not enjoy the benefits of a liberal education. Here they had to contend with numerous and untried difficulties, in order to secure the necessaries of life. They had, therefore, neither time nor opportunity to devote to the improvement of their minds. This being the general and almost necessary condition of the mass, (though some noble exceptions among them, in spite of these difficulties, worked their way up to no ordinary height in literature and science,) these poems enabled them to obtain a correct and comprehensive knowledge of the whole system of divine truth. This was the author’s design. While much of the poetry of the present day consists of a mawkish sentimentalism, dreamy fantastic visions, which belong neither to heaven nor earth, vitiating the taste for instructive and substantial reading, and enervating the natural vigour of the mind, these contain in chaste and polished language eternal truths, which are fitted to prepare the soul for the highest state of possible perfection.

In many of the English hymns extant, and even those sung in public worship by Christian assemblies, there is a reduplication of the same idea continued through a number of verses; in these poems every line contains some new or distinct idea. In them there is no “making the most of an idea,” or a weary waiting for the inspired gusts, “like angels’ visits, few and far between.” They seem the productions of a mind continually under the poetic afflatus, with ideas crowding in upon it and struggling for expression.

These, like all other human productions, are not all of equal merit. Some, whether from the nature of their theme, the intensity of the author’s poetic inspiration, or the time at his command, stand out in conspicuous superiority from among the best. These are the poems entitled “The Gospel,” “The Complaint,” “The Last Judgment,’’ “The Righteousness of Christ.” The latter we consider the best in the whole number. There are few religious poems superior to it in the English language. It alone is sufficient to acquire for the author the honourable distinction of “no ordinary poet.” There are some passages in it which are remarkable for their poetic beauty and brand sublimily.

These poems were composed amid many difficulties and disadvantages,— excessive ministerial labours,—domestic duties, and public engagements. They display in the author, genius, an extensive knowledge of theology, ardent love to the Saviour, and a sincere desire to promote the eternal welfare of his fellow-countrymen.

The poem on “The Gospel” we have translated as literally as justice to the sense and idioms would permit. As we are merely giving this as an example to the English reader of the nature of these poems, we did not deem it necessary to translate the whole poem; we have therefore only translated fifteen stanzas out of the twenty, which it contains. Each line in English is a translation of the corresponding line in Gaelic.

Were the Gaelic highly cultivated, there is no language better adapted as a vehicle for poetic inspiration, impassioned eloquence, or expressions of tender and endearing sympathy. Though harsh and unchristian to the English ear, to the Highlander far away from his native hills and mountains it is the true language of nature and of paradise.

These poems immediately became popular among the Highlanders, particularly the pious of them, wherever they were introduced, and are now well known in the north of Scotland, particularly in the west Highlands. Several persons from that quarter have assured me that it is there quite common to hear mothers singing them to their children, as Watts’ divine songs are sung in many an English nursery. And we have also been assured by those who have had good opportunities of knowing that they have been very useful in giving to many clear views of the doctrines of the gospel. Ministers who spoke Gaelic, and had associated with Gaelic people, have told me that they have frequently met persons of little education, who yet had accurate conceptions of divine truth, and whose statements of it were modelled by the language of these poems.

We may add here that he was one of the most thorough Gaelic scholars of his day, and that he composed a great deal more in that language which has not been published. We have in our possession a copy of the Westminster Confession of Faith in Gaelic, which seems to have been composed before any edition of it had been published, and which a thorough Gaelic scholar has pronounced quite equal to the translation now in use. We have also in our possession versions, in Gaelic metre, of more than a hundred of the Psalms of David, and the most of the Scottish Paraphrases.

We insert here a letter to a friend in Scotland, partly in reference to his Gaelic poems:

Dear Sir :—I was much gratified by your letter received a few clays ago. To receive a letter from an Antiburgher minister, a native of Glen-tarken, is no common enjoyment. Had such a thing been promised me when I left home I would have had difficulty in believing it. Great are the changes taking place in the Highlands. Different denominations, not excepting the Baptists, find a footing in some of the wildest parts of them. But that dispensation of Providence which scatters the Highlanders over the face of the earth, as it did the Jews, is to me strange and mysterious. Every year since I came here some have been coming this way from Inverness, Ross, and Sutherland, and I have often wondered how our native parish of Comrie enjoyed such a calm. It seems, however, that a scattering blast has come at last. I was quite surprised at your account of the depopulation and emigration of my native vicinity. Here we have little or no connection with Canada, and though you had mentioned the precise spot where they have settled, it is likely that I know nothing about it. Upper Canada, however, is reckoned a good place for emigrants, better than this, the soil being more fertile. Were I to go again to my native place, what a change would I see! I would not find my father’s house, and it is likely I would not get a night’s quarters in the village without money. Has the same depopulation taken place throughout the parish of Comrie?

I tremble to think of the chastisement that seems waiting for Britain. Those who are for and those that arc against a revolution are strong, and the conflict must be terrible, if undeserved mercy do not interpose. The higher classes have been long teaching the lower to despise God, and it were no wonder that at last they should despise themselves. There are many corruptions to be plucked up, but iheir roots are so strong, that they cannot to all appearance be plucked without long and violent pulling. A merciful God may, however, deal more mercifully than appearances prognosticate, or men can think. There is surely much need for that prayer, “In wrath remember mercy.” In my young days the ministers commonly prayed for the downfall of Prelacy. I do not know if they continue to do so or not. The prayer will surely be answered, but it may be by terrible things in righteousness.

I am much gratified with what you have written concerning my poor poems, except the incorrectness of the printing, which cannot be helped for the present. or may it please the Lord to make them a blessing to my poor countrymen! Do not forget to pray for a blessing with them. 1 composed these poems in part, travelling through the dreary wilderness of America, hoping they might do some good, but seeing little prospect of it. There are two of them, that on smoking tobacco, and Comhairled'n T-l-cl, so insignificant, that I repent of having sent them home. If they have been printed, and should there be a second edition, I wish them suppressed. The three which I sent last, bid as fair in my opinion to be useful, in the way of instruction, as any of them ; and I would rather have sonic of the others suppressed than them. In the event of another edition, you must undertake the correction of the press, somehow or other. If yon cannot do it yourself, you must surely know of some good Gaelic scholar about Glasgow who will do it. Most of the Gaelic books are badly printed, which is a great discouragement to readers. The poems have not yet come this way, and I know not whether the mistakes be few or many; but if possible, I will send you a list of the Corrigenda. I would have you to make out a list of them too, lest mine should not reach you. Besides I mean to send you one poem more, viz., on the sin and misery of man by nature; also an additional verse to two or three of those already made. Gratitude requires that I should make a verse for the Tract Society. I wish I had the name of some of your acquaintance in Greenock, to whose care I might send letters or parcels, by which means they might reach you with less risk and cost. You did well to write to me from Saltcoats, for till I received yours I did not know if you had received any of mine.

You say you have some questions to ask about the Church of Nova Scotia, but I believe you had better not ask them, for we cannot give you very pleasant answers. Ours is a poor church indeed, yet we are striving to bring things as near as possible to the inspired rule. We are only organizing a church, and we have but poor materials to work upon. The population of Nova Scotia is of a very heterogeneous kind, consisting partly of natives and partly of emigrants from various countries; the former reared in the woods know nothing, the latter is rather the scum than the cream of the countries they come from. Books and education are scarce. Migration from place to place is common, as land has been hitherto plenty. Extravagance, especially intemperance, is very common. All these things are against us. Hence the government and discipline of our church is more than one step from perfection. Our stipends are so small or so badly paid, that most of us are compelled to take the aid of farming, or teaching for a living. We have not our choice of ministers. A number of them had some reason for leaving home, and coming here. Yet still we are making progress. Above twenty ministers belong to our Synod. We arc creeping into better order. Schools are multiplying. And what is truly wonderful we have gotten an Academy established at Pictou, which bids fair to send forth excellent ministers in a short time. Mr. MacCulloeh is killing himself carrying it on. Mr. MacKinlay is more moderate. Our Legislature seem inclined to give it their support, I hope they will give it three or four hundred pounds a year. Grace be with thee.

James MacGregor.

P. S. I have just heard that Rev. Mr. Nicol is dead, I believe of a sore in his leg.


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