Page 48 - Presbyterianism in Old Cape Breton
ISSUE : Issue 42
Published by Ronald Caplan on 1986/6/1
charge the onerous duties of his calling over im? mense stretches of country, and under circum? stances that made his work a tremendous burden. Yes, these remarkable men have taken their journey to that country from whose bourne no traveller re? turns, and for half a century Cape Breton has not seen any representative of their class. The espec? ial need for them has been removed by increase in the number of regular clergy; by the general know? ledge of religious truth and doctrine disseminated in literature and taught in the various church or? ganizations; and by the absence, it is feared, of equally profound interest now in the matters of faith and religion. At the head of this effective moral and religious organization was the minister. It is impossible for the present generation to realize the exact ec? clesiastical position of the old-time Presbyterian clergyman in Cape Breton • ninety, seventy-five years ago. He was the supreme authority in affairs pertaining to Christian doctrine and practice, and a mighty arbiter in matters relating to morality. There is no doubt that many sins languished and perished of inanition for fear that the fact of commission might reach the ears of the minister. However, as individuals, these Ambassadors of the Cross were far from being cruel tyrants or domi? neering autocrats. Each was, as Thackeray said of Dr. Samuel Johnson, "a fierce foe to all sin, but a gentle enemy to all sinners." Their names are held to-day in the greatest reverence by the de? scendants of those who enjoyed their ministry, and lived in close contact with them. They were all highly educated men, graduates in Arts of Edin? burgh, Glasgow, or Aberdeen University, and were selected in the Old Country by a society of Chris? tian ladies called the "Edinburgh Ladies' Associa? tion," headed by the celebrated Mrs. John McKay of Edinburgh. About the time that the "Clearances," as they are called, commenced in the north of Scot- hen the Canada Games Torch Burns Brightly Nova Scotians Will Cheer :. • • ?: • . • . • • • . • • . • • ??. • . :'- . • ??;"* • :' • ??-. • • • • ; • • • . • • : • :;:>: • ?. JheHomeTe'rn February 14-28, 1987 Nova Scotia Department of Culture, Recreation and Fitness Proud to be a partner in ttie 1987 Jeux Canada Winter Games. (48) land (1810 A.D.), a great number of her fellow Highlanders emigrated to Cape Breton where, for many years after their landing upon its shores, there was not one Presbyterian minister, and where indeed, except in a yery few spots, there was no such thing as the dispensation of religious ordin? ances by any denomination of professing Christians. Mrs. McKay, with that Highland patriotism for which she was so notable, kept up a correspondence with many of her fellow countrymen in Cape Breton, listened to the cry sent across the Atlantic by some of the Christian patriarchs relative to the destitution of religious observances there, awak? ened the attention of the Christian public of Edin? burgh to the condition, and formed the Association referred to above, which was instrumental in rais? ing considerable sums of money that were sent to Cape Breton and expended there in supporting Di? vine ordinances and in promoting the cause of edu- 'cation. It was through the means of this Mission that several of the leading school teachers in Scotland, male and female, were sent out to help in dispelling the clouds of intellectual darkness that enveloped the scattered and struggling settle? ments in the destitute country. Besides all this, the Society supported several Catechists in Cape Breton, and sent out large donations of Bibles and religious books to the different parishes. For up? wards of thirty years Mrs. McKay was identified with this land, far away from her home in the cap? ital city of Scotland where she died in 1850. It can be readily perceived that the ministers sel? ected by such a devout individual would be persons of exceptional qualifications. So they were, and emphatic was the Commission with which they were charged 1 They were to be fearless in denouncing sin and in exposing iniquity in the high places as well as on the lower levels. On their arrival, how precious to their soul-thirsty hearers were the two-hour sermons, and how especially delicious was the presentation of the tenderness of the Gospel in contradistinction with the terrors of the Lawl On the way home from church • a distance of six or seven miles in some cases--the conversation among the groups who were travelling on foot often dealt with the subject matter of the minister's dis- CUSTOM BEPLACEMEMT WlilBOWS No alterations to your home are necessary with our energy efficient, maintenance free, customized replacement windows.
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