« AnteriorContinuar »
SCOTTISH SACRAMENT SABBATH.
PETER'S LETTERS. The sacramental symbols were set forth at the upper extremity of a long table covered with a white cloth, which extended the whole length of the church, from the pulpit to the gate. At the head of this table, around which as many were already seated as it could at once accommodate, the minister of the place took his seat also. After his sermon was concluded, and he had read aloud several chapters of the bible, which are pointed out for this purpose in the Directory of the Scottish Church, as containing words suitable to the occasion, words of encouragement to the worthy, and of warning to the presumptuous communicant, he then craved a blessing, and having broken a single piece of bread and given of it to those immediately beside him, large loaves, cut into slices, were carried around the table, and distributed to all who sat at it, by two or three of the lay elders. The cup, in like manner, was sent round shortly afterwards, and during the time which elapsed in the distribution of these symbols, the minister delivered an address to those who were partaking in them. After the address was terminated, those who had been its immediate objects withdrew, and left their seats free for the occupation of another company, and so in the same manner did company succeed company throughout the whole of the day; minister succeeding minister in the duty of addressing them, which is called in their language serving the tables.' Without pretending to approve of this method so much as of our own, nay, without attempting to disguise my opinion, that it is, in many respects, a highly improper method; it would be in vain for me to deny that there was something extremely affecting even in its extreme simplicity, and still more so in the deep and overwhelming seriousness which seemed to fill the spirits of the partakers.
But the concluding evening scene was, without doubt, by far the most impressive of the whole. A tent had been erected at the foot of the churchyard, and from it different ministers preached to the multitude, which overflowed after the church itself was filled, during the whole of the day; but now, after the sacrament had been dispensed to all who were admitted to that privilege, the kirk was shut up, and the whole of the thousands who had assembled were summoned to hear one parting sermon at the tent together.
There could not be a finer sight than that which presented itself to us when we came to the brink of the ravine which overhung, on the one side, the rustic amphitheatre, now filled with this mighty congregation. All up the face of the opposite hill, which swept in a gentle curve before us, a little brook flowing brightly between in the gleam of sunset, the soft turf of those simple sepulchres rising row above row, and the little flat tombstones scattered more sparingly among them, were covered with one massy cluster of the listening peasantry. Near to the tent, on one side, were drawn up some of the carriages of the neighbouring gentry, in which, the horses being taken away, the ancient ladies were seen sitting protected from the dews of the twilight, while the younger ones occupied places on the turf immediately below them. Close in front of the preacher the very oldest of the people seemed to be arranged together, most of them sitting on stools brought for them by their children, from the village, yet fresh and unwearied after all the fatigues of the day, and determined not to go away while any part of its services remained to be performed. The exact numbers of those assembled I cannot guess, but I am sure they must have amounted to very many thousands. Neither you nor I, I am confident, ever beheld a congregation of the fourth of the extent, engaged together in the worship of their Maker.
The number was enough of itself to render the scene a very interesting one ; but the more nearly I examined their countenances, the more deeply was I impressed with a sense of respectful sympathy for the feelings of those who composed the multitude. A solemn devotion was imprinted on every downcast eyelid and trembling lip around me. Their attitudes were as solemn as their countenances, each having his arms folded in his shepherd's cloak, or leaning in pensive repose upon one of those grassy swells, beneath which,
• Each in his narrow tomb for ever laid,
The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.' Here and there I could perceive some hoary patriarch of the valley, sitting in such a posture as this, with the old partner of his life beside him, and below and around him two or three generations of his descendants, all arranged according to their age and propinquity; the ancient saint contemplating the group, ever and anon, with a sad serenity, thinking, I suppose, how unlikely it was that he should live long enough to find himself again surrounded with them all, on another recurrence of the same solemnity of the midsum
Near them might be seen, perhaps, a pair of rural lovers, yet unwedded, sitting hand in hand together upon the same plaid, in the shadow of some tall tombstone, their silent unbreathed vows gathering power, more great than words could have given them, from the eternal sanctities of the surrounding scene. The innocent feelings of filial affection and simple love cannot disturb the feelings of devotion, but mingle well in the same
bosom with its higher flames, and blend all together into one softened and reposing confidence, alike favorable to the happiness of earth and hea
There was a sober sublimity of calmness in the whole atmosphere around; the sky was pure and unclouded overhead, and in the west, only a few small fleecy clouds floated in richest hues of gold and crimson, caught from the slow farewell radiance of the broad declining sun. The shadows of the little church and its tombstones lay far and long projected over the multitude, and taming here and there the glowing colors of their garments into a more mellow beauty. All was lonely and silent around the skirts of the assemblage, unless where some wandering heifer might be seen gazing for a moment upon the unwonted mul de, and then bounding away, light and buoyant, across the daisied herbage into some more sequestered browsing place.
I wish, my dear Williams, you had been present with me at this closing scene of the Scottish sacrament sabbath, the only great festival of their religious year. You would then have seen what a fine substitute the Presbyterians have found, in the stirring up of their own simple spirit by such simple stimulants, for all the feasts, fasts, and holidays-yes, and for all the pompous rites and observances with which these are celebrated, of the church from which they have chosen so