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Memoir of the Rev James MacGregor D.D.
Chapter XXII. - Close of Life - 1825 - 1830

"I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day; and not to mo only, but unto all them that love his appearing.” 2 Tim. iv. 6—8.

Our narrative now draws to a close. But a few incidents remain to be noted. From the date of Mr. MacGillivray’s ordination, there was but the one church in which he statedly preached, and he was thus in his old age relieved of the toilsome labours of his former years. This church, we may remark, had been built in the year 1803, on the east side of the river; and stood till recently, as many of our readers will remember, just opposite the Albion Mines.

We have not felt it necessary to refer particularly to his discharge of pastoral duty, since the first years of his ministry, because the description given of his labours then, will apply to subsequent periods, with the exception of such changes as the progress of the country and the improvement among the people induced. The congregation, as we have seen, was gradually contracted within narrower limits, so that he did not need to spend his nights from home. Roads had been formed, so that travelling was now comparatively easy, till at length about the year 1822, some of the leading men in his congregation combined to make him a present of a gig, which was the second on the East River, and which served him during the remainder of his days. The people, with the exception of the new settlers, had now generally become comparatively comfortable in their worldly circumstances, so that lie was not now subjected, either at home or when among them, to the privations of his early years. They had also made considerable advance in religious knowledge, and were regular in the discharge of the duties of Christianity. So that his work was not to lay the foundation by instructing them in the first principles of the oracles of God, nor to form their religious habits; it was rather to build them up and establish them in the faith which they had embraced.

We may remark, that, with the exception of the great outbreak in his congregation by the arrival of the ministers of the kirk, his congregational affairs in general moved on with a calm and uniform course. There were such small difficulties as will occur in every Christian society. His people were nearly all Highlanders, whose tempers are at least peculiar. But being a thorough Highlander himself, he knew exactly how to manage them, and his influence among them was unbounded. Offences did come, but seldom had they any reference to himself. But his tact and conciliatory manner were generally successful in removing them without much difficulty.

He had now come to old age, and though the hardships of his early years had impaired the vigour of his constitution, yet he was still able* for the efficient discharge of all his pastoral duties. He did not, however, travel to great distances from home; his last journey of any length of which we have any account, was to Musquodoboit in the year 1823, as one of a commission of Synod, to decide some matters in dispute between the congregation there and their minister. He still, however, visited neighbouring congregations, assisting at sacraments, or appealing to their liberality in support of the measures of the church. On behalf of all forms of Christian effort, his zeal was as ardent as ever, and his activity scarcely diminished. His preaching had lost but little of the animation of his early years, but this was more than compensated by the deeper tenderness of his tones, and by the venerable appearance which age had lent to his form, while all that he said produced a deeper impression from the universal esteem, which his character and labours had excited. In his general bearing the ardour of youth had been mellowed by years into a heavenly meekness and calmness of spirit. Still his soul fired against any dishonour done to his Master, and he reproved sin in all classes as boldly as ever. About this time a gentleman from Britain, having, in company with a relative of his own, built a vessel a little below where now stands the village of New Glasgow, launched her on the Sabbath. He was much hurt, and not only did he write a faithful letter to each of them, but the first time they went to church they heard their sin set before them in a sermon on the words, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.”

We can scarcely exaggerate the respect with which he was now commonly regarded. Few men had the art of gaining affection as he had. Among the inhabitants of Pictou generally, with the exception of the new settlers, who formed the Kirk party, his influence was unbounded. That Doctor MacGregor said so, was sufficient to settle all disputes. Perhaps this was more marked from the large proportion of the people being Highlanders, their descendants, a people who seem peculiarly inclined to strong attachments of this kind. “We just thought,” said one man to the writer, “that he could raise the dead.” And now that he had a hoary head which was truly a crown of glory, he was universally regarded as “ such an one as Paul the aged.” Not only through Pictou, but through a large portion of this and the neighbouring colonies, he was regarded with the most loving veneration, such as we might suppose the apostle John received in his old age from the churches of Asia. By his brethren in the ministry he was looked up to as a father, and by the church at large, almost as its founder. Visitors to the county felt it their privilege to see and converse with him as a notability, and we have met with persons even in the United States, who from such interviews had carried away ineffaceable impressions of the loveliness of his Christian character. Yet all the honour and respect shown him, never seemed to kindle a single emotion of vain glory in his bosom, or to produce any other spirit than that of him, who while proclaiming himself as having laboured more abundantly than all his brethren, yet regarded himself “as less than the least of all saints.”

His own feelings at this time were such as any man might envy. The affection and esteem with which he was greeted on all hands would have been gratifying to any mind; but especially pleasing was it to him, to look back upon the changes which had taken place in his sphere of labour, and to behold what God had accomplished by his instrumentality. How different was now the physical state of the country!—smiling farms and villages had taken the place of the primeval forest. But especially might he be delighted to see the moral wilderness rejoicing and blossoming as the rose. Where he had been a solitary labourer, ministering to a few lonely dwellers in the wood, he now saw a community marked by intelligence, virtue, and religion; and far beyond, where he had planted with much toil and watered with many tears, he saw flourishing Christian societies. He saw a Synod formed, and a church united in measures for the promotion of the kingdom of the Redeemer, and he saw the assurance of her permanence in an institution for the training of her future ministry. Often did he speak with the liveliest gratitude of what his eyes had seen.

Still he had to suffer what every aged person must endure, the pain of separation from those who have been the companions of his prime. From time to time, one after another of those who had shared his early trials, and had been his comfort and support in the days of trial, preceded him to the presence of his Master. In a New Year’s address, about this time, lie speaks of their having lost during the previous year two of their elders, and “best friends of the church ever since the gospel came to Pictou.” About the year 1827, Robert Marshall was called away, and about the same time Donald MacKay finished his course. On the Sabbath after the latter was buried, the Doctor in commencing his discourse alluded to the event, and said that lie might say, as David, “ Know ye not that a prince and a great man is fallen in Israel.’'

After referring to his character, he particularly adverted to his services to himself, and said, that, but for him, he believed that he would have stumbled or given up altogether.

Still, in such cases the pain of separation was alleviated by the prospect of an early reunion; and he loved to think and speak of them as in heaven, and of the near prospect of being with them. Travelling once in company with David Fraser, student, they came to a point where their roads diverged. As they were about to separate, he asked the latter how far he intended to go that night? “To Robert Marshall's,” was the reply, the place being still known by his name, though he was dead. The Doctor paused for a moment, as if in thought, and then repeated his question. “ To Robert Marshall's,'' was again the reply. “If you are going to Robert Marshall's, you must go to heaven, and I am going no farther!”

A reference to two more subjects will complete our notice of his public life. The first of these to which we mean to direct attention, is the unfavourable position which dissenters and dissenting ministers then occupied, both in this and the neighbouring Provinces. We are led to advert to this point here, by a circumstance, which, for the sake of the party concerned, we would have been disposed to pass over, but which we shall advert to, as illustrating this feature of his times. At present,' happily all denominations of Christians in these Colonies, are upon a level as to civil rights. It was not so, however, in Doctor MacGregor’s days. The Church of England was not only recognized as the Established Church, but it possessed the ear of Government, and was enabled to thwart the efforts of dissenters to obtain the same privileges as others. The effect of this we have seen in the old Pictou Academy struggles. Dissenters were thus for a long time the objects of suspicion on the part of the higher authorities, and their ministers were under disabilities, particularly as to the celebration of marriage. In a memorial to the United Secession Church, from a Committee of Synod, of which Doctor MacGregor was one, it was said:

“Sustaining the character of Seceders, except in the establishment of the Seminary in Pictou, we have been thwarted in every application to Government, which has had for its object either a removal of grievances or the advancement of the interests of our church. Some years ago we who reside in Nova Scotia, applied to our Colonial Legislature to be relieved from certain restraints with respect to the celebration of marriage. An act in our favour was accordingly passed, but when it was transmitted to Britain, for His Majesty’s approbation, there went with it a representation from the Established Church, that we were Seceders, and the Royal assent was withheld. * * We may also add that the same cause which prevented our success with His Majesty’s ministers operates powerfully against us, in the minds of our Provincial authorities. The enemies of Presbyterians possess their ear; and we have neither opportunities, nor that respectability of position, which might enable us to counteract the influence of misrepresentation and prejudice in those circles, where we are known only by report.”

All the early ministers found themselves under the necessity, for the sake of avoiding greater evils, of solemnizing marriage; and they generally did it in the manner prescribed by law in Scotland, though it was not strictly legal here. The practice was generally permitted, but some of the Church of Scotland ministers, who had arrived in the Colonies, though in reality dissenters here themselves, began to assume airs of superiority; and, instead of combining to obtain for their fellow-Presbyterians the same privileges as others, endeavoured to rivet upon them the disabilities under which they were lying. One of them in New Brunswick accordingly wrote to Doctor MacGregor the following letter:

N. B., February 21st, 1825.

Dear Sir:—At the request of Mr. John MacArthur, farmer, parish of Sussex, Kings County, in this Province, I now address you:—I baptized three children for him lately, and found upon inquiring that he had been married by you about twenty years ago. It immediately occurred to me, that, according to the Marriage Act of this Province, he was not legally married, inasmuch as the act above referred to limits the power of celebrating marriage to the Established Clergy of the Church of England, and Justices of the Quorum, but docs not prevent such celebration by ministers of the Church of Scotland, regularly ordained according to the rites thereof. Any other person celebrating or assisting in the celebration of marriage is declared liable to prosecution, and must forfeit to his Majesty a sum not exceeding one hundred pounds, nor less than fifty, and must be imprisoned for twelve months. Mr. M. and his friends have long been uneasy on the subject, and as 1 was anxious to know if there was any clause in the act that could relieve them, 1 consulted with a professional gentleman on my return to town, and found unfortunately that his opinion was that the marriage was illegal,—that you were liable to the penalty,— and that there was no remedy for Mr. M., but by having the ceremony again performed by an authorized person. Meantime he has requested me to ask you to send a certificate of his marriage.

I am, Dear Sir,

Yours, sincerely.

We will not stay to characterize this letter as we think it deserves. But let our readers mark the statements of the letter, that the marriage was null, and the party solemnizing it liable to fine and imprisonment; and compare with this the request to Doctor MacGregor to send a certificate that he had so solemnized this marriage, and they may form their own conclusion. On the back of the letter is the following by Mr. MacKinlay:

Dear Father :—I think--has little to do. He is anxious to promote a party. Religion does not seem to be his object. 1 would send no certificate. This is only a snare for you, although there is not a particle of danger. You had better not be in a hurry in sending him an answer. When Doctor MacCulloch returns we will consult about it.

Dear Father,—Yours, &c.,

John MacKinlat.

What further correspondence took place we know not, but, notwithstanding this writer’s zeal for the maintenance of the law, the Province of New Brunswick was saved the shame of fining and imprisoning for twelve months, a minister of Christ for lending the sanctions of religion to the marriage contract.

The other subject connected with his public labours, to which we mean to advert, is the operations of “the Glasgow Society (in connection with the Established Church of Scotland) for promoting the religious interests of the Scottish settlers in British North America.” Of this Society Doctor Robert Burns, then of Paisley, now of Toronto, was Secretary and the chief moving power. We at once admit that the object of the Society was good, that there was much need of such efforts for the supply of the spiritual destitution of the Colonies, and we are not in the least disposed to impugn the motives of its founders and supporters. Nor are we disposed to deny that it was the means of doing much good in other colonies, and in supplying the destitute portions of this colony, particularly Cape Breton j though under wiser management, the good accomplished might have been greater. But still we must say, that as far as the sphere of operations of the Presbyterian Church of Nova Scotia was concerned, the whole system pursued by this Society was unjust. Its leading principle was to supply ministers of the Church of Scotland to the colonies, and to build up an interest in connection with that body. But when a Presbyterian body was already organized here on the broad basis of our common Presbyterianism, which was putting forth most praiseworthy efforts to overtake the destitution around, and to train a ministry for the nest generation, and whieh would welcome sound Presbyterian ministers from the Church of Scotland, as readily as from other Presbyterian bodies, to enter upon the same sphere, merely to build up their own sectarian peculiarity was schism in the sight of God, and could only be expected to prove disastrous to the cause of Presbyterianism, and dishonouring to the religion of Christ.

But the mode in which its operations were carried on rendered matters much worse. It must be granted that there was a necessity of extending pecuniary aid to the poorer settlers. But this aid was often granted in such a way as to prove an encouragement to the latter to slackness in their own efforts. As Doctor MacGregor remarks, “To make a poor enough mouth was all that was thought requisite to ensure the Society’s bounty. It is a fact, that at least one settlement agreed to subscribe one only of what they believed themselves able to pay, lest otherwise they should not be thought poor enough." The tender of £50 per annum, and a minister from the Church of Scotland, was freely made all round, even to settlements which had been receiving supply from the Presbyterian Church of Nova Scotia, and in such a way as held out a bonus to separation. Some congregations of that body, when they came vacant, feeling their weakness for the support of a minister, yielded to the enticement, and others were divided.

But this was not the worst. We have already described the commencement of division among Presbyterians in Pictou. The men who had caused it, were taken by the hand by the Society; and were aided in all their schemes, particularly in their efforts to destroy the Pictou Academy, on account of its furnishing ministers to the Presbyterian Church. Doctor Burns himself joined in sneering at native preachers, and persisted in sending out men, whom he has since described in the very lowest terms.

Under these circumstances the Committee of Missions of our Church, of which Doctor MacGregor was a member, transmitted to the Directors of the Society, by the hands of Doctor MacCulloch, a memorial on the subject of the course which they were pursuing. Believing the supporters of the Society to be acting with the most upright intentions, but at the same time under misapprehension of the state of matters here, the Committee set before them a large amount of information regarding the condition of the Colonies, pointed out defects in the plans of the Society, represented the evils of the system they had adopted, and affectionately urged a different course. This memorial was disregarded, if not treated with contempt, and a sharp controversy ensued between Doctor MacCulIoch and Doctor Burns. Doctor MacGregor also wrote the letter which appears among his remains. It describes, in the mildest spirit, the evils which must ensue from the system pursued by the Society, and affectionately pleads for union among Presbyterians.

Doubtless the chief blame of these evils rests with the Society’s agents and correspondents in this country. They sent home the most exaggerated accounts of the destitution in this Province—and poisoned the minds of the Directors of the Society against the church here, and particularly against the Pictou Academy and the ministers trained in it; in fact, wrote home what Doctor Burns has since described in his own expressive way, as “great lies". But the Society was not guiltless. They would give no heed to information furnished by other parties in circumstances to know the truth, they trusted their correspondents, even after their gross misrepresentations had been exposed, and they plainly showed, that in the spirit of High Church exclusiveness, they disdained all co-operation with those whom they despised as Dissenters.

For a time the efforts of the Society were successful, so that in 1833 a Synod was formed in connection with the Church of Scotland. But the end showed that the basis of the system was unsound. In 1843 came the disruption of the Church of Scotland, when the prophecy of Doctor MacCulloch, regarding the ministers sent out by that Society, that “a presentation would show them to be but wayfaring men,” was abundantly fulfilled. A large proportion of them returned to Scotland, to occupy the vacant watch-towers there. In the meantime their efforts had been successful in destroying the Institution, which, if it had been properly sustained, would have afforded a supply of faithful preachers. Presbyterianism was thus left with ranks broken, with much ground lost, and with an ill savour from the divisions among its adherents. Both bodies found themselves in 1844 in the position that the oldest was in 1816, of having to begin to found an Institution for the training of a native ministry, and as to union, we are not in this year 1859 in the same position in which our fathers were in 1817.

We may here record some experiments, which he made about this time, which will show his active and inquisitive turn of mind. His farm, it had been discovered ere this, was situated over a bed of coal. In a small pool of water, not far distant from his house, there was observed a bubbling up of gas. The Doctor began to make experiments on it. He first took a tub, or half puncheon, and inverted it in the water. In this he had a hole bored and a pipe stem inserted. In the end of the pipe stem he put a pin, until the tub became so full of gas, as to be nearly raised out of the water. lie then drew out the pin and lit the gas, when it burned beautifully and brilliantly for a time. This he did on several occasions for the amusement of himself and others. Near this, and only a few rods from his own house, there was a small stream of water, where it was discovered that the gas was more abundant. The boys used to fill a puncheon, and when lit, as in the last case, it would burn for a length of time. It afforded them a fine amusement, when the puncheon was full to turn it over, and throw into it a lighted paper. It produced a high and brilliant blaze, which could be seen for a considerable distance around. He then conceived the idea of introducing it into his house. He got wooden pipes made, but those whom he employed to make them, had no way of boring them out of a solid piece, and the only plan they could adopt, was to dig out channels in two flat pieces and join them together. But in this way it was scarcely possible to make them tight. He managed, however, by means of them to get the gas into his house, and it would burn in the cellar, or at the door step, but he never succeeded in getting it to burn in any of the rooms. He then imported gas fittings and leaden pipes, but the quantity of the latter sent was quite insufficient, and before he got another supply, circumstances occurred to interrupt his plans, and they were never resumed.

An event must now be mentioned which caused an important change in his worldly circumstances, viz., the commencement of the operations of the General Mining Association. In the year 1826, that company obtained a lease of the mines and minerals of the Province, and in the following year sent out their first agent, Mr. Richard Smith, to open their works at the East River. The spot chosen for their first operations was close by the residence of Doctor MacGregor, and Mr. S. boarded in his house for some time, as the only suitable one near. The Doctor took a deep interest in what he was doing, and delighted to converse with him as to his projects, and their results upon the future progress of the country. On his first arrival in the Province, he seemed to have regarded his field of labour as unimportant, and likely to yield but little fruit; but after he had been a few years here, and saw the progress which the country was making, he formed a more enlarged conception of Its capabilities, and future destinies, and this naturally led to higher views of the importance of the special work assigned him in the Providence of God. He lelt himself labouring for posterity—as sowing seed which would bear fruit to many generations—as laying the foundations of a structure which was to grow wider and higher through all time. Having long before learned to expect great things as to the future of this country, he was now deeply interested in the prospect, now opening, of its more rapid progress, by the development of resources, hitherto lying dormant and almost unknown.

But another change became requisite. His farm became necessary for the operations of the Association, and a few months after, at the solicitation of Mr. Smith, he agreed to sell it for the sum of £1150 ($4600). He was, however, to occupy the house till he had time to build another. He sold off all his farm stock, with the exception of one or two cows, and bought a small piece of ground on the opposite side of the river, and near the cburcb, on which he built a cottage, in which he spent the remainder of his days. We cannot but remark the kindness of Providence in supplying his temporal necessities. He had through life manifested the utmost self-denial; he had never grasped at stipend, he had cheerfully borne losses, and had liberally given in charity and for the promotion of the cause of God. Yet he had always been abundantly provided for, and now by a remarkable providential dispensation, depending on the simple fact of his just obtaining his farm on that spot, he was in his old age put in possession of a sum larger than he had ever expected to possess—sufficient not only for the comfort of his own declining years, but also to provide for the last days of his widow, to educate the younger children who at his death were unable to provide for themselves, and to bring them forth to fill stations of respectability and usefulness in society.

We must, however, now conic to the closing scene. Doctor MacGregor enjoyed uninterrupted health till the year 1S24, when symptoms of cancer appeared in his lower lip, rendering a surgical operation necessary. The wound was soon healed and the cure proved effectual. He retained his usual soundness of constitution till the 13th of February, 1828, when he was suddenly prostrated by a severe stroke of paralysis. He had been holding a diet of examination at MacLellan’s Brook. The day had been very cold and he had walked home. Whether the exertion had affected him or not is uncertain, but in the evening he remarked that he felt a strange sensation in his head, and went to a basin to bathe it in cold water. Soon after he was completely paralyzed. For several days he was unable to speak, and gave no indication of consciousness, except by the moans which he uttered, under the extremely active treatment, to which his medical attendant felt it necessary to resort. For some weeks he was entirely laid aside from public duty, and it may be remarked that till this time he had only been prevented from preaching on two Sabbaths, one of these being on the occasion of his first wife’s death. His mind was also for a time greatly enfeebled,—his memory being especially affected. By the blessing of God upon the means employed, however, his health was soon in a great measure restored, but his whole right side was ever after partially paralyzed. There was always a feeling of numbness in it, and a peculiar pricking sensation which he compared to what is felt in a limb, when the circulation has been for a time arrested. This state of his right side caused a partial lameness during the rest of his days, lie also regained in a great measure his mental vigour, but his memory of names he never recovered. He could not even name his own children, and what is somewhat singular, he very often called one by the name of another.

In a short time he resumed his public duties in his congregation, and continued to discharge them till the week of his death, visiting, catcchizing and preaching as formerly. During this period his preaching was of a peculiar character. In intellectual power many thought his discourses equal to the performances of his early days. In this respect the only marked feature, and it was one which he felt more than was apparent to others, was the difficulty, from the state of his memory, of recollecting the course of thought which he had traced out for himself. He wrote out a sketch of his sermon, but was obliged to keep his finger on his MS., following what he had written, in order to retain the thread of his discourse. On one occasion he could not find bis text. lie opened the Bible and turned over the leaves, looking for it but without success. He then said that he had forgotten where his text was, but he knew the subject of it, and turning to another text, he preached with his usual earnestness and vigour. It was remarked too that be recollected the scriptures almost as well as ever, and quoted them as freely and as fully as ever, but he could not recollect the names of the writers, and did not attempt to name the books from which his quotations were taken. But the feature which chiefly characterized his preaching, was the heavenly spirit which breathed through all he said. He felt the sentence of death in himself. He knew that in a very short time he must preach his last sermon, and that at any moment he might be cut down, and he preached “as dying unto dying men.” He might be described as dwelling in the land Beulah, and he addressed his fellow-men as on the very verge of heaven, and as if he already breathed the air of the better land.

The same spirit was manifest in private. He still studied, but a tendency to lethargy, and the difficulty of writing from the paralyzed state of his right hand, partially unfitted him for this work. He was thus left more to meditation, and his thoughts seemed to be much in heaven. He showed the same gift, which he had always possessed, of giving conversation a religious turn, but now heaven was his chief theme. One day coming up to the Academy, where a number of the students were standing, they spoke to him, asking him how he was? “Oh,” he said, “very well, except this poor side, but one moment of heaven will be worth it all.” Sometimes, when musing,—on the clock striking, he would say,  I have been here another hour.” In the evening after tea, he commonly sat with his right side to the fire, and frequently slept till the time of family worship. A gentleman who lodged in his house the winter before he died, was surprised on one of these occasions by his breaking out into prayer in his sleep. The prayer was of considerable length, and had all the characteristics of a family prayer. It was slightly incoherent, but only sufficiently so to indicate that he was asleep. On enquiry of Mrs. MacGregor, he was informed that he frequently prayed in his sleep. One morning a few days before his death,—his daughter, about fifteen years of age, said to him, “O father, I dreamed that you were a king, and that they were putting a crown on you.” “Oh,” said he in a most pleasant manner,  I will soon be better than a king, and wear a crown of glory.”

His condition at this time cannot be better presented than in the description given by the immortal dreamer of the state of the Pilgrims when in sight of the City:

“Now, I saw in my dream, that by this time the Pilgrims were got over the enchanted ground, and entering into the country of Beulah, ( Isa. lxii. 4-12. Song ii. 10-12,) whose air was very sweet and pleasant. The way lying directly through it, they solaced themselves there for a season. Yea, here they heard continually the singing of birds, and saw every day the flowers appear in the earth, and heard the voice of the turtle in the land. In this country the sun shineth night and day; wherefore this was beyond the valley of the shadow of death, and also out of the reach of Giant Despair; neither could they from this place so much as see Doubting Castle. Here they were within sight of the City they were going to; also here met them some of the inhabitants thereof; for, in this land the shining ones commonly walked, because it was upon the borders of heaven. In this land also, the contract between the Bride and Bridegroom was renewed; yea, here, “as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so doth their God rejoice over them.” Here they had no want of corn or wine, for, in this place they met with abundance of what they had sought for in all their pilgrimage. Here they heard voices from out the city,—loud voices, saying, ‘Say ye to the daughters of Zion, Behold thy salvation cometh ! Behold his reward is with him.' Here all the inhabitants of the country called them ‘the holy people, the redeemed of the Lord, sought out, &c.'

“Now as they walked in this land, they had more rejoicing than in parts more remote from the kingdom to which they were bound; and drawing near to the City, they bad yet a more perfect view thereof. It was builded of pearls and precious stones, also the streets thereof were paved with gold; so that by reason of the natural glory of the city, and the reflection of the sun-beams upon it, Christian with desire fell sick. Hopeful also had a fit or two of the same disease. Wherefore here they lay by it a while, crying out because of their pangs, ‘If ye see my beloved, tell him that I am sick of love.'

“But being a little strengthened and better able to bear their sickness, they walked on their way and came yet nearer and nearer, where were orchards, vineyards, and gardens, and their gates opened into the highway. Now as they came up to these places, behold, the gardener stood in the way; to whom the Pilgrims said, ‘Whose goodly vineyards and gardens are these?" He answered, ‘They are the King’s, and they are planted here for his own delights, and also for the solace of Pilgrims/ So the gardener had them into the vineyards, and bid them refresh themselves with the dainties (Deut. i. 23, 24); he also shewed them there the King’s walks, and the arbours where he delighted to be, and here they tarried and slept.

“Now, I beheld in my dream that they talked more in their sleep at this time than ever they did in all their journey ; and being in a muse thereabout, the gardener said even to me, ‘Wherefore musest thou at the matter? It is the nature of the fruit of the grapes of these vineyards, “to go down so sweetly as to cause the lips of them that are asleep to speak.”

“So I saw that when they awoke, they addressed themselves to go up to the city. But, as I said, the reflection of the sun upon the city, (for the city was pure gold,) (Rev. xxi. 18; 2 Cor. iii. 18,) was so extremely glorious that they could not, as yet, with open face behold it, but through an instrument made for that purpose. So I saw that, as they went on, there met them two men in raiment that shone like gold, also their faces shone as the light.

“These men asked the Pilgrims whence they came; and they told them. They also asked them where they had lodged,— what difficulties and dangers, what comforts and pleasures, they had met in the way; and they told them. Then said the men that met them, ‘ You have but two difficulties more to meet with, and then you are in the city.’ ”

At length he reached the brink of the river, but his passage across was neither long nor stormy. He continued to discharge all the duties of the ministry till the very close of life, having been engaged in pastoral visitation but a few days before his death, and having on the Sabbath previous preached with more than ordinary vigour. On that day being the 28th February, 1830, his texts were in Gaelic, Rom. v. 10; and in English, Eph. ii. 7, 8, and he preached in a manner which, considering the debilitated state of his health, surprised the congregation. On Monday the Rev. John I. Baxter, being then a student of Theology, spent the evening with him reading Hebrew. After Mr. B. left, he engaged in family worship. The Presbytery was to meet next day, and he was as usual looking forward with eagerness to the prospect of meeting his brethren. He had just given directions to Mrs. MacGregor to prepare his clothes for him for the next day, and was preparing for the repose of the night, when he was visited with another paralytic stroke. Suddenly his bodily frame was shaken, the features of his face were distorted, his power of expression was gone, and he was in the act of falling on the hearth, when Mrs. MacGregor, being in the room at the time, caught him in time to prevent his fall. Medical aid was promptly called in, but the physician at once pronounced his case hopeless. After this he may be said to have held no communication with his family. He survived, however, apparently in great agony, though probably unconscious either of mental or bodily sensation, till Wednesday forenoon, when he entered into the joy of his Lord.

From the manner of his death there was no opportunity of his giving one of those death-bed testimonies, so comforting to friends, so useful to survivors, and so honouring to religion. But we are reminded of an anecdote of Whitefield, which seems to suit this case. In the last visit but one which he paid to America, he spent a day or two at Princeton, under the roof of the Rev. Doctor Finley, the President of the College there. After dinner the Doctor said, “Mr. Whitefield, I hope it will be very long before you will be called home, but when that event shall arrive, I shall be glad to hear the noble testimony you will bear for God/’ “ You would be disappointed, Doctor,” said Whitefield, “I shall die silent. It has pleased God to enable me to bear so many testimonies for him during my life, that he trill require none from me when I die. No, no, it is your dumb Christians, that have walked in fear and darkness, and thereby been unable to bear a testimony for God during their lives, that he compels to speak out for him on their death-beds.”

We will not say that this is any thing like a universal rule of God’s procedure. Yet when we consider how Chalmers and Whitefield, and others of the most laborious of his servants, have been summoned away in the midst of their toils, without being permitted to give any death-bed testimony to the power of the gospel, we feel as if it were not uncommon in the arrangements of divine wisdom that those who have been most abundant in labour, should leave their testimony for God in their lives of usefulness. “Their works do follow them.”

Yet his whole course from the time of his first attack of paralysis was a death-bed testimony, and that of the most delightful and impressive kind. It was the walk of one who felt himself daily on the verge of eternity, and who lived almost as if his spirit had crossed its threshold. On calmly reviewing the whole then, we may say with the poet

Fitting close For such a life! His twelve long sunny hours right to the edge of darkness ; then the calm Repose of twilight and a crown of stars.

Thus died James MacGregor, and we may say that few men have been more warmly loved while living, and more deeply mourned when dead. Hundreds of homes were filled with weeping, at the intelligence of his sudden departure. Not only in the county of Pictou, but far beyond, multitudes of all classes —the old, with whom he had shared the privations of their early settlement,—the middle aged, who in youth had learned from him their first lessons in spiritual things—and the young, who had been taught from infancy to pronounce his name as something sacred, but whose reverence had been tempered by affection as he moved among them, alike mourned him as a father and a friend; while from those interested in the affairs of that church, in whose welfare he felt so lively an interest, and for whose establishment he had laboured so zealously, there arose a cry, like that of the sons of the prophets, on the ascension of Elijah, “My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and the horsemen thereof.”

On the Saturday following, “devout men carried him to his burial and made great lamentation over him.” The funeral was the largest ever known in this part of the country, and, with all the increase of population, and all the increased facilities for intercourse, probably the largest that has yet taken place in the Province, it having been calculated that there were scarcely less than two thousand persons present. “I shall never,” said the Rev. John MacKinlay, “forget the peculiarly imposing solemnity of the procession—a dark, dense column of mourners, headed by a few venerable individuals, the particular friends of the deceased, slowly advancing, under a brilliant sun, and along the pure, dazzling snow, to the sacred spot where his mortal remains shall repose till the resurrection.”

By appointment of Presbytery, the Rev. Duncan Ross, now the senior minister of the district, preached on Sabbath to his congregation, giving extensive details of his labours and usefulness, and amid deep and heartfelt expressions of sorrow, exhorting them to “remember the things which he spake while he was yet present with them.” In most of the congregations of the body, as well as by ministers of other denominations, the event was referred to, with suitable expressions of admiration for his character and labours.

A monument was erected to his memory with the following inscription, composed by Doctor MacCulIoch, of which copies may be seen framed in many houses, particularly on the East River.


The first Presbyterian minister of this district, who departed this life, March 3, 1830, in the 7Ist year of his age, and the 46th of his ministry, this tombstone was erected by a number of those who cherish a grateful remembrance of his apostolic zeal and labours of love.

When the early settlers of Pictou could afford to a minister of the gospel little else than a participation of their hardships, he cast in his lot with the destitute, became to them a pattern of patient endurance, and cheered them with the tidings of salvation. Like Him whom he served, he went about doing good. Neither toil nor privation deterred him from his Master’s work, and the pleasure of the Lord prospered in his hand. He lived to witness the success of: his labours in the erection of numerous churches, and in the establishment of a Seminary, from which these churches could be provided with religious instructors. Though so highly honoured of the Lord, few have exceeded him in Christian humility; save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ he gloried in nothing; and as a public teacher, combining instruction with example, he approved himself to be a follower of them who through faith and patience now inherit the promises.

Doctor MacGregor was rather above the middle size, had a somewhat long visage, and dark complexion, was spare in flesh, and possessed an athletic active frame. No portrait of him is in existence.

It might be expected that we should now give some more particular delineation of his character. But our effort has been an entire failure, if this does not appear better in the facts which we have recorded, than in any description we could here give. All we could say might be comprehended in the eulogium of a gentleman, whom we have already named, a stranger, who came to reside on the East River, and who belonged to another denomination, that “he was the most like what he could imagine Christ to have been, of any man be had ever seen.” A few testimonies borne to him, however, we have inserted in the Appendix, (See Appendix G.) Should we be accused of the partiality of the friend or the biographer, we dare aver before the Searcher of Hearts, that our aim has been to present him as he was, and we solemnly affirm, that we know not one fact to his discredit, which we have concealed.

We may, however, make a few remarks on his mental powers, as it will afford us an opportunity of referring to some points yet untouched. It has been remarked, that it is scarcely possible to find a person, who excels in the gifts of conversation, writing, and public speaking. Such is the division of natural gifts among the children of men, that it is not common to find an individual who occupies an eminent position in even two of these departments. The great writer is often no orator, and is as frequently deficient in conversational powers; while the writings of the thorough orator may be unread, and the delightful companion of the social circle may fail to make any impression from a public platform. But we do claim for the subject of onr memoir a high place in each of these departments. As to his conversational powers, we have had occasion so frequently to refer to them, that we do not feel it necessary to advert particularly to the subject again. This was one of the first features, which struck every person who met with him. And we may remark, that not only were the common people interested in his conversation, but the most cultivated minds were delighted with his society, and were often struck with the extent of his information, and the vigour and originality of his thoughts.

As a writer he had not much opportunity to distinguish himself. Engaged all his life in the most arduous labours, in circumstances the most unfavourable for literary pursuits, it would be no matter of surprise if he should not have added any thing to the permanent Theological Literature of his day. But the existing specimens of his writings afford abundant evidence, that he possessed strong powers of mind, capable of grappling with the most profound subjects of human investigations—clear reasoning powers—together with a somewhat poetical temperament, which lent a grace to his speculations, so that, had this been the sphere to which he devoted himself, he might have won for himself a high rank among Theological writers. In proof of this we need only refer to his defence of the Imprecations of the Psalms. Under any circumstances we would consider that treatise sufficient to establish his character as an original thinker, and a forcible writer. But when we consider, that it was written before he was thirty years of age, when he was entirely secluded from literary society, and even from all intercourse with men of education,—when he was engaged daily in most harassing toils—and when he had access to no books but the Bible, and the few old volumes he had brought with him from Scotland, we cannot help regarding it as a wonderful production. He has there anticipated the latest investigations of modern criticism on the question, and we know of no work in the English language to the present day, in which the whole subject is discussed in a manner so exhaustive and so satisfactory.

His style is remarkably clear and simple, yet vigorous withal. "We question if there will be found one unintelligible or confused sentence in all that he has written, while he often excels in condensing a large amount of meaning into a single phrase. These excellences of his style are doubtless owing in the first instance to the clearness and force of his conceptions, but in the next place to the fact that his language is generally the strong sturdy Saxon of Bunyan and the fathers of English Literature.

It should be remarked here, that the Gaelic was his native tongue. His family judge that he thought most in it, from the fact that if disturbed when engaged in thought, his first exclamation was usually in that language. Perhaps the quaintness of some of the expressions in his earlier compositions, is owing to this cause; but his later writings possess such accuracy of language and purity of idiom, that none would have supposed from them, that he had been trained in another tongue. We may remark here, that he had somewhat of a philological taste, which may account for his being so thoroughly master of both languages. Thus we find him not, only well acquainted with the sacred languages, but importing at one time a Modern Greek Testament, at another a Welsh Bible, and we have heard of his studying some portions of the language of the Basque Provinces, and pronouncing it, in opposition to the judgment of many scholars, to be a dialect of the Celtic.

But the generation which knew him best will always consider that it was as a preacher that he exhibited the highest powers. His cotemporaries generally will always believe that, in this character, he was unrivalled in this part of the world. This opinion was entertained of him by all classes of society. “The common people heard him gladly,” but the most cultivated minds were scarcely less impressed under his preaching. Many of the facts recorded in the memoir, afford evidence of his power in public address. Of his sermons the great characteristics were plainness and simplicity. The truths of the gospel were stated iu a manner level to the comprehension of a child. A clergyman recently deceased, informed us that he retained a distinct recollection of the course of thought in lectures, heard from him when he was eight years of age. The people were generally of humble attainments, and his illustrations of divine things were commonly taken from the most familiar objects. Sometimes he used strong and what might almost be termed rough expressions, but they were such as conveyed his meaning in a way that would not readily be forgotten. We give a single example. Describing the worthlessness and vileness of mankind by nature, he wound up by saying, that they were fit only to be “shovelled into hell.”

In his manner, too, the great peculiarity was the absence of all art. There were none of the tricks of oratory. One great charm of all he said, was that it seemed to come so naturally from the heart. But there was all the earnestness and the complete absorption with his subject which marks the genuine orator. He had not much action, but as he warmed with his subject, his eye kindled with such brilliancy, that it seemed to pierce through each beholder, and his whole frame seemed instinct with emotion. And he had all the command over the feelings of his audience which marks the genuine orator. In preaching the law, or proclaiming the justice of God against sinners, he was sometimes terrific. As one described it, “You would think that the judgments of heaven were about to alight on you,” or as another said, “He would almost make your hair stand on end.” But his highest delight was to proclaim the gracious truths of the gospel, and on such themes as the love of God to sinners, or the sufferings of Christ, the tears coursed down his cheeks, though commonly he still retained firmness enough to proceed, a tremor of his voice, peculiarly affecting, marking the depth of his emotions. In his later years this tenderness increased, so that he was sometimes so overcome, as to be unable for a little to proceed. At tins period of life he seldom addressed a communion table without shedding tears.

In short, if he was not “the best minister that ever came to America,” as we have repeatedly heard him termed, it would be useless to attempt to remove the idea from the minds of the first settlers of Pictou, and the early inhabitants of many other places in these Provinces. We have visited such on their dying beds, and when the faculties were so far gone, that they did not know their own children, we have seen the eye brighten at the mention of his name, and the soul awake to utter enthusiastic praises of him. In vain have we tried to reason with such, that the same divine grace which made him what he was could make others as good. With them there could be but one Doctor MacGregor, and as Foster said of Robert Hall, “while ready to give due honour to all valuable preachers, and knowing that the lights of religious instruction will still shine with useful lustre, and new ones continually rise, they involuntarily turn to look at the last fading colours in the distance where the greater luminary has set.”

We have scarcely said any thing of him in the domestic circle, but it is scarcely necessary to do more than remark, that the light of his Christian example shone as brightly there as in any sphere of Christian life. Much of his time when at homo was spent in study. Returning home from visiting, he sometimes scarcely took time to warm himself, till he sat down to his books or his writing. He was able to prosecute his studies undisturbed even by the presence of his family. His children remember that they might pursue their innocent sports without his seeming to heed them in the least, but the moment that anything improper was said or done, he checked them with the rapidity of thought. But he was not so absorbed either in study or public work, as to neglect the moral and religious education of his children, and his faithfulness appears in the result. Trained up in the way they should go, not one of them has departed from it, and it would not be easy to convince the members of that household, that any other family ever had so good a husband and father as they.

It will be proper to add some particular notice of the subsequent life and last days of her, who, for eighteen years, had been the Doctor’s nearest and dearest associate on earth. We are happy, therefore, to insert the following, furnished by a member of the family :

“Though sorely stricken by this heavy blow, (viz., her husband’s death,) she did not sink into despair, or refuse to be comforted. She rose in the strength of promised grace, and devoted herself to the care of her family. In the cottage where her husband had spent his last days, she dwelt in peace, reigning in the affections of the younger portion of the family who dwelt with her, and receiving many marks of undiminished regard from those of riper years, who were now gathering little families around their own hearth stones. Pleasant days were these to which we revert with great delight, when the younger members of the family dwelt together, or were separated only for short seasons as circumstances rendered necessary. Gradually however, one after another was called in Providence to leave the parental roof tree. One removed to New Glasgow. Her second daughter was united in marriage to Rev. J. I. Baxter, of Onslow, and removed thither. Her third daughter, becoming the wife of Rev. J. Campbell, dwelt in St. Mary’s. Her only son, the Rev. P. G. MacGregor, having been licensed in 1841 as a preacher, was settled during the same year in Guysboro, and in 1843 in Halifax. The marriage of her youngest daughter to Rev. J. Cameron, of Nine Mile River, involved the necessity of some change in domestic arrangements, and, among the many homes offered, she accepted of the invitation to accompany her youngest and last married daughter to her new home at Nine Mile River. Arriving there, after a rest of a few weeks in Onslow, she was surrounded with a people who were entire strangers, and removed far from the familiar faces and dear friends, with whom, for more than a quarter of a century, she had dwelt in peace and happiness. Yet her cheerfulness and contentment were undiminished, even when visited with an affliction, calculated to subject them to a severe trial. Her hearing was slightly impaired by a cold taken about the time of her change of residence. Restored for a time, it was lost almost entirely through a return of cold in the head. She went to the house of God as in times past, and worshipped in spirit, but alas! the voice of the preacher and the psalm of praise were no longer audible. She could no longer hear or take part in ordinary conversation. Deeply she felt the loss sustained by the diminution of social intercourse, but more deeply the loss of the sanctuary services, which now appeared to have terminated for her on earth. Yet she never murmured, and never forsook the assemblies of Zion. She loved to be there, and in communion with the God of her youth enjoyed the blessedness of those who ‘dwell in the house of the Lord.’ She spent much of her time in retirement, and, unless present with the family, her employment appeared to consist chiefly of reading, meditation, and prayer. She marked the dispensation, and expressed her belief, that it was mercifully sent to withdraw her from the world, and to lead her into closer communion with God, preparatory to her appearance in his presence.

“Having paid a visit to her son in Halifax, this affliction was happily removed through the skill and kindness of Doctor Parker, and as the familiar sounds of human voices were again clearly heard, in the tones of ordinary conversation, tears of gratitude flowed down her cheeks in copious streams, and special thanks were given to God, that she again could hear the glad tidings of salvation, and join with the multitude who kept holyday in songs of praise to her Covenant God and Redeemer.

“The times of the dispensation of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper at Nine Mile River, were to her occasions of great interest, especially when her son assisted the Rev. Mr. Cameron, whom she also loved as a son. She remained throughout the whole services, and on one such occasion in winter accompanied them to a distant section of the congregation, to be present, assigning as a reason that she could not have many more of these precious seasons, and must improve those within her reach.

“In June, 1851, she determined to revisit the scenes and the friends of former years. Coming first to Onslow, about the middle of June, she spent a week or ten days with Mrs. Baxter; all the other members of the family she was to meet in New Glasgow. These were days of great enjoyment to mother and daughter. She received and returned visits of friendship, was present at religious ordinances, both in Onslow and Truro, and no indications were visible to the most observant that her race was so nearly run. She accompanied Mr. and Mrs. Cameron on their way to the meeting of Synod, and on the evening of Wednesday, the 25th of June, her eldest daughter, Mrs. James Fraser, of New Glasgow, had the satisfaction of receiving her, apparently in her usual state of health, to spend some weeks together. How delusive are human expectations ! She was to watch over her in her sickness, to close her eyes in death, and then having for a short season proved herself not only a sister but a mother to the younger members of the family, to hear the Master’s call, and to go also at his summons.

“On Thursday her children and grand-children gathered around her. Other dear friends called,—not to pay visits of form, but to give expression to their feelings of affectionate regard. The two following days ( Friday and Saturday) were spent chiefly in returning these visits, and in affectionate intercourse with many who loved her for her own virtues and graces, and who were reminded by her presence of the worth and services of one over whom the grave had now closed for more than twenty years. The exertion and mental excitement of these days were probably too much for her feeble frame, but no injurious effects were yet visible.

"On the Saturday afternoon and evening several ministers coming up from Synod called, which prolonged the strain upon her nervous system. On the Lord’s day, however, she was where she ever delighted to be,—waiting on God in the ordinances of his grace. She worshipped in Primitive Church. Rev. Mr. Raster preached in the morning, his text being Psalm cxliv. 15, ‘Happy is that people whose God is the Lord.' Rev. P. G. MacGregor preached in the afternoon from 1 Sam. ii. 30, ‘Them that honour me I will honour'. She felt it good to be there. She expressed the satisfaction which the services yielded her, and her determination to hear the Rev. Mr. Sedgewick, in the evening, giving as a reason that she might never have another opportunity of hearing him. Her son, on whose arm she had leaned in going to, and returning from, the house of God, perceiving that the exertion of the previous days and the strain of two long services had produced some measure of exhaustion, advised her to rest at home during the evening, reminding her of the duty of guarding against over-exertion. She yielded to advice. On the morrow, however, she was indisposed, whether from over-exertion or from cold, taken from a current of air in the church, none could tell. On Tuesday she continued poorly, but revived somewhat on Wednesday, so that on Thursday morning, Mr. and Mrs. Cameron felt free to return home, and her son to visit friends at Guysborough and St. Mary’s. On his return to New Glasgow on the morning of the following Thursday, having had no intelligence of any relapse, he found that she had passed from earth a few hours previous.

“For several days she bad been visibly sinking, but as her strength had frequently been much prostrated by severe colds, no serious alarm was taken till death was at hand. All that filial love and medical skill could do was done. Doctor Forrest, then the resident physician in New Glasgow, attended her; while she was watched over, by one of the most loving of daughters as well as by her family. Not a few of her sayings during those days and nights are treasured up in their hearts. To the late Mrs. Carmichael, a much loved friend of many years’ standing, she said, ‘I think it probable, that I have been brought back to die among you'. To another she said that when she placed her foot on the waggon-step at Nine Mile River, she thought she might never return, and took a farewell look of the neat cottage, where she had spent two happy years of her life.

“She refused to have persons sitting with her by night, remarking that she was never lonely. On one of these occasions, awaking from sleep, and referring evidently to her dreams, she said to her daughter on her entering her room, ‘I am always seeing those old men.'/ ‘What old men, mother?’ was her daughter’s inquiry. She replied, “The old men who used to follow father, (i. e. her husband,) when he went to the Upper Settlement and other places to preach/ Doubtless, she was soon to join with many of those old men in singing the new song before the throne.

“On Wednesday the Rev. Messrs. Herdman, Roy, and Walker called on her, and each spent some time with her in religious conversation and prayer. Toward evening she inquired if her son might be expected on that evening, and learning that his arrival was not probable; she remarked that she had been highly privileged on that day, that she had enjoyed the prayers of three ministers, adding, but if Peter were to come to-night, he would be the fourth.

“During the night she slept. Early on Thursday she asked to be helped to rise, and sit upon an arm-chair. She appeared faint and requested that the window should be raised.—’Twas done. Her head dropped on the chair, and in a few moments she breathed her last, having passed away without a moan or a struggle; her countenance in death, wearing the same placid and sweet expression, by which in life it had ever been distinguished.

“On the 12th, devout men carried her body to the grave. Though this was done with many tears and with heartfelt sorrow, yet they did not make great lamentation over her. Those who had lost a mother knew that she had been called home. They knew that she bad oft directed them to the Lord Jesus, to teach them how to live and how to die; and now that she was released from the trials of earth, they felt persuaded that her absence from the body was presence with the Lord.

"She left behind her no enemy. Her mental powers were not above mediocrity. She was remarkable, rather for the sweetness of her disposition, for the consistency of her Christian walk, and the ardour of her devotional feelings. She loved divine truth, and her own New Testament, in large print, bore the marks of a book which had been carefully read. She taught her children to fear and to love God. She prayed for them, and with them. In the absence of others to conduct family worship, the household were not left to go forth to the world without meeting together at the throne of the heavenly grace. With reverence and fervour, strongly indicated in the tones of her voice, the sound of which the writer will never forget, she pled with the God of all the families of the earth, her covenant God, who had led her in youth, and through life, to guard and guide them through all dangers on earth, to lead them to Jesus, and to fit them for his everlasting kingdom in glory.

"Her trust in Providence never failed. She rose under difficulties. Committing herself to God in prayer and using diligently appointed means, she rested with confidence on the divine promises. Her calmness was seldom disturbed. She dwelt under the shadow of the wings of Him that is the Almighty. Thus living, her end was peace. Having served her generation, she fell asleep.”

Doctor MacGregor had eleven children born to him. Of these, two died when but a few days old. The remaining nine, viz., three sons and three daughters by his first marriage; and one son and two daughters by his second,—survived him. All are still living, with the exception of one daughter, the author’s mother, who finished her earthly career in 1843, having lived a life of unobtrusive usefulness, and died in the triumphs of faith.

They all filled stations of usefulness and respectability, in society as well as in the church. They were all married, and all had families; and the promise is now being realized, "My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever.” His eldest grandson has been permitted to raise this monument to his memory, and of his other grand-children, the majority of those who have reached years of maturity, are now members of the church, and there has not yet been one black sheep in all the flock. May we have the reader’s prayers that no one of his descendants be either filled with spiritual pride, saying, “We have Abraham to our father,” or increase his condemnation by despising the exalted privileges with which we have been favoured, but that we may be “mindful always of his covenant; the word which he commanded to a thousand generations.”

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