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The Annals of the Parish by John Galt

Part 4 out of 4

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I found a letter on the table; and I came away, locking the door
behind me, and took the lovely prattling orphans home. I could but
shake my head and weep, as I gave them to the care of Mrs
Balwhidder, and she was terrified but said nothing. I then read the
letter. It was to send the bairns to a gentleman, their uncle, in
London. Oh! it is a terrible tale; but the winding-sheet and the
earth is over it. I sent for two of my elders. I related what I
had seen. Two coffins were got, and the bodies laid in them; and
the next day, with one of the fatherless bairns in each hand, I
followed them to the grave, which was dug in that part of the
kirkyard where unchristened babies are laid. We durst not take it
upon us to do more; but few knew the reason, and some thought it was
because the deceased were strangers, and had no regular lair.

I dressed the two bonny orphans in the best mourning at my own cost,
and kept them in the manse till we could get an answer from their
uncle, to whom I sent their father's letter. It stung him to the
quick, and he came down all the way from London, and took the
children away himself. Oh! he was a vexed man when the beautiful
bairns, on being told he was their uncle, ran into his arms, and
complained that their papa and mamma had slept so long, that they
would never waken.


As I come towards the events of these latter days, I am surprised to
find myself not at all so distinct in my recollection of them as in
those of the first of my ministry; being apt to confound the things
of one occasion with those of another, which Mrs Balwhidder says is
an admonishment to me to leave off my writing. But, please God, I
will endeavour to fulfil this as I have through life tried, to the
best of my capacity, to do every other duty; and, with the help of
Mrs Balwhidder, who has a very clear understanding, I think I may
get through my task in a creditable manner, which is all I aspire
after; not writing for a vain world, but only to testify to
posterity anent the great changes that have happened in my day and
generation--a period which all the best-informed writers say, has
not had its match in the history of the world since the beginning of

By the failure of the cotton-mill company, whose affairs were not
settled till the spring of this year, there was great suffering
during the winter; but my people, those that still adhered to the
establishment, bore their share of the dispensation with meekness
and patience, nor was there wanting edifying monuments of
resignation even among the stravaigers.

On the day that the Canaille Meeting-house was opened, which was in
the summer, I was smitten to the heart to see the empty seats that
were in my kirk; for all the thoughtless, and some that I had a
better opinion of, went to hear the opening discourse. Satan that
day had power given to him to buffet me as he did Job of old; and
when I looked around and saw the empty seats, my corruption rose,
and I forgot myself in the remembering prayer; for when I prayed for
all denominations of Christians, and worshippers, and infidels, I
could not speak of the schismatics with patience, but entreated the
Lord to do with the hobleshow at Cayenneville, as he saw meet in his
displeasure, the which, when I came afterwards to think upon, I
grieved at with a sore contrition.

In the course of the week following, the elders, in a body, came to
me in the manse, and after much commendation of my godly ministry,
they said, that seeing I was now growing old, they thought they
could not testify their respect for me in a better manner than by
agreeing to get me a helper. But I would not at that time listen to
such a proposal, for I felt no falling off in my powers of
preaching; on the contrary, I found myself growing better at it, as
I was enabled to hold forth, in an easy manner, often a whole half
hour longer, than I could do a dozen years before. Therefore
nothing was done in this year anent my resignation; but during the
winter, Mrs Balwhidder was often grieved, in the bad weather, that I
should preach, and, in short, so worked upon my affections, that I
began to think it was fitting for me to comply with the advice of my
friends. Accordingly, in the course of the winter, the elders began
to cast about for a helper; and during the bleak weather in the
ensuing spring, several young men spared me from the necessity of
preaching. But this relates to the concerns of the next and last
year of my ministry. So I will now proceed to give an account of
it, very thankful that I have been permitted, in unmolested
tranquillity, to bring my history to such a point.


My tasks are all near a close; and in writing this final record of
my ministry, the very sound of my pen admonishes me that my life is
a burden on the back of flying Time, that he will soon be obliged to
lay down in his great storehouse--the grave. Old age has, indeed,
long warned me to prepare for rest; and the darkened windows of my
sight show that the night is coming on, while deafness, like a door
fast barred, has shut out all the pleasant sounds of this world, and
inclosed me, as it were, in a prison, even from the voices of my

I have lived longer than the common lot of man, and I have seen, in
my time, many mutations and turnings, and ups and downs,
notwithstanding the great spread that has been in our national
prosperity. I have beheld them that were flourishing like the green
bay-trees, made desolate, and their branches scattered. But, in my
own estate, I have had a large and liberal experience of goodness.

At the beginning of my ministry I was reviled and rejected; but my
honest endeavours to prove a faithful shepherd were blessed from on
high, and rewarded with the affection of my flock. Perhaps, in the
vanity of doting old age, I thought in this there was a merit due to
myself, which made the Lord to send the chastisement of the Canaille
schism among my people; for I was then wroth without judgment, and
by my heat hastened into an open division the flaw that a more
considerate manner might have healed. But I confess my fault, and
submit my cheek to the smiter; and now I see that the finger of
Wisdom was in that probation, and it was far better that the weavers
meddled with the things of God, which they could not change, than
with those of the King, which they could only harm. In that matter,
however, I was like our gracious monarch in the American war; for
though I thereby lost the pastoral allegiance of a portion of my
people, in like manner as he did of his American subjects, yet,
after the separation, I was enabled so to deport myself, that they
showed me many voluntary testimonies of affectionate respect, and
which it would be a vain glory in me to rehearse here. One thing I
must record, because it is as much to their honour as it is to mine.

When it was known that I was to preach my last sermon, every one of
those who had been my hearers, and who had seceded to the Canaille
meeting, made it a point that day to be in the parish kirk, and to
stand in the crowd, that made a lane of reverence for me to pass
from the kirk-door to the back-yett of the manse. And shortly
after, a deputation of all their brethren, with their minister at
their head, came to me one morning, and presented to me a server of
silver, in token, as they were pleased to say, of their esteem for
my blameless life, and the charity that I had practised towards the
poor of all sects in the neighbourhood; which is set forth in a
well-penned inscription, written by a weaver lad that works for his
daily bread. Such a thing would have been a prodigy at the
beginning of my ministry; but the progress of book-learning and
education has been wonderful since, and with it has come a spirit of
greater liberality than the world knew before, bringing men of
adverse principles and doctrines into a more humane communion with
each other; showing that it's by the mollifying influence of
knowledge the time will come to pass, when the tiger of papistry
shall lie down with the lamb of reformation, and the vultures of
prelacy be as harmless as the presbyterian doves; when the
independent, the anabaptist, and every other order and denomination
of Christians, not forgetting even those poor wee wrens of the Lord,
the burghers and anti-burghers, who will pick from the hand of
patronage, and dread no snare.

On the next Sunday, after my farewell discourse, I took the arm of
Mrs Balwhidder, and with my cane in my hand, walked to our own pew,
where I sat some time; but, owing to my deafness, not being able to
hear, I have not since gone back to the church. But my people are
fond of having their weans still christened by me, and the young
folk, such as are of a serious turn, come to be married at my hands,
believing, as they say, that there is something good in the blessing
of an aged gospel minister. But even this remnant of my gown I must
lay aside; for Mrs Balwhidder is now and then obliged to stop me in
my prayers, as I sometimes wander--pronouncing the baptismal
blessing upon a bride and bridegroom, talking as if they were
already parents. I am thankful, however, that I have been spared
with a sound mind to write this book to the end; but it is my last
task, and, indeed, really I have no more to say, saving only to wish
a blessing on all people from on high, where I soon hope to be, and
to meet there all the old and long-departed sheep of my flock,
especially the first and second Mrs Balwhidders.


{1} Dreghorn, Ayrshire, two miles from Irvine.

{2} Irvine, Ayrshire.

{3} Cognac.

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