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CHAPTER XXXV —con tinned.

Among the multitudes whom the anticipated interest of that event drew to Edinburgh immediatly before the meeting of the General Assembly, were people from every corner of Scotland, and every rank of life—except, perhaps, the very humblest. The variety of manners, character, and costume, among the crowds that swarmed in from all directions, was calculated to strike the attention of the most cursory observer. There was, however, one thing remarkable among all—a pervading feeling of the momentous nature of the crisis that had arrived. Many of them had never before set foot in this ancient city, yet few seemed to care for sight-seeing, or to visit spots which at any other time would have attracted many gazers. The house of John Knox; the scenes where Scotland’s most illustrious martyrs suffered death for conscience’s sake; their graves in the Greyfriar’s Churchyard ; the Covenant Close; and, indeed, every place associated with the history of the Covenanting times, attracted stray parties who were not involved as actors in the great business of the hour. But that business affected the feelings of all, and engrossed the attention of thousands to the immediate exclusion of all other sublunary affairs. The bypast struggles of the Church could not compete in interest with that which was still going on; the sufferings of men long ago at rest dwindled into indistinctness compared with the sacrifices which living men were now about to make. And at every turn might be seen new groups of simple, unworldly looking men, some of them young, confident, and energetic, others far into the vale of years, careworn and thoughtful. Nor were all these to be taken for men who had come to throw their endowments to the winds for the sake of principle. Many an anxiously excited eye and grave knit brow were to be seen among ministers who were not prepared to take such a step, but who felt their own position far from satisfactory, and who sincerely deplored the dissensions which seemed about to rend the Church asunder. The eldership of either patty could hardly be distinguished from the clergy, so intensely did they feel the importance of the great principles at stake in the pending contest. Sir John Baldwin, and his sturdy tenant, Ringan Stimperton, had been a! tracted to town by the same influence; and, as a matter of course, Mrs. Renshaw had also come. The two lastnamed persons were just arrived, and were seated with Mr, Duncanson in his lodgings, when he received a note from the Baronet, requesting his company at supper that evening at his town residence. The student immediately wrote a card in reply, mentioning the arrival of his country friends, and on that account respectfully declining the invitation. The servant, however, who carried this message, returned soon after with an invitation to all the three to breakfast with the Baronet the following morning., Mrs. Renshaw and Stififriggs as well as the student himself, wondered much what could be Sir John’s motive in this apparent wish to renew an acquaintance which, at the very outset, had been broken off on account of differences seemingly irreconcilable, The lady formed many fruitless conjectures to solve the difficulty, but on the whole felt pleased in the hope that some good luck, in the shape of professional advancement, was awaiting her nephew; for her natural ambition for the moment outran her assumed zeal for Non-intrusion.' Stiffriggs, on the contrary, was gruff and suspicious on the subject, apprehending that the integrity of his protege was again to be tried by some new temptations. However, the invitation was accepted, and next morning found the trio at the breakfast-table'of Sir John. They were not his only company, for shortly after their arrival the Rev. Mr. Calrnsough and old Mr. Montgomery entered the room. There was surprise on both sides ; the student was embarrassed, and the father of his Agnes not a little displeased .at* the meeting. They, however, exchanged civilities in the usual form; and Sir John, who had purposely brought them together with the best intentions, kindly strove to place them on a cordial footing with each other. Ere long, the Baronet, addressing Mr. Duncanson, said—“ I wished to see you last night to communicate a piece of news which I am sure our friends here will now be glad to learn.’ ‘ Well, sir, what is it, if you please ?’ * Oh, I daresay you may have heard the substance of it by this time, for it was-in the London papers which arrived yesterday. I allude to Lord Aberdeen’s declaration in the House of Lords concerning the Church of Scotland.’ ‘Yes, sir,’ replied the student, ‘I have heard something cf what he said ; but if I have been correctly informed, his declaration amounts to nothing that can avert the present crisis.’ ‘ How so ? He has intimated pretty plainly that he is preparing a new amended Bill that will confer on the Church all the privileges which her best friends can reasonably desire. Here is a private letter which gives a moie precise account than the newspapers of what Lord Aberdeen said on the subject It is from a noble friend of mine who was in the House at the time. You will hear what he says.’ Sir John then proceeded to read the letter, of which the following was the closing passage:— ‘Never will I forget the solemnity with which his Lordship, speaking of the Non-intrusion party, said, that should they secede from the Church of their fathers, without waiting to see his newly modelled Bill, they would not be able at the last day to call the God of Truth to witness that they had been driven to that course by the persecution of the Legislature. This was a most impressive appeal, and I hope’it will be the means of preventing the Non-intrusionists from taking any resh step in the ensuing Assembly. My dear friend, I implore you, by your love to our common country and venerable Church, to use all the influence you, possess to persuade those who are most zealous for a change to pause before committing themselves irrevocably in a schismatic

course. Assure them, and you may safely do so, that nothing is required but a little patience and forbearance to place their privileges on a broader and firmer basis than ever. Represent to them the danger of making any disruption in the establishment, for no man can see where such a movement would end. Tell them that Government and all the leading men in the Legislature are now fully alive to the danger, and only require a little time to take deliberate measures and put all to rights. Above all, warn them, in the solemn words of Lord Aberdeen, to consider how they will answer in the great day of account if they wilfully, make an irreparable breach in that institution which they are bound by the most sacred obligations to defend, at the very moment when Government is preparing to concede to their every reasonable 013101.’ ‘ Now,’ said Sir John, folding up the letter, * you will see from the strain in which my friend writes, that it is no trifling concession to the Church that is intended; and, I hope, the anxious wish of Government to adopt healing measures, even though it be announced at the eleventh hour, will not be thwarted by the over-zeal or impracticability of the movement party.’ During the reading of the letter, old Mr. Montgomery was intensely agitated, and once or twice glanced searchingly at the student to see what effect it produced on him. The student heard it all with perfect composure, like one whose mind was thoroughly made up, His aunt, on the contrary, was greatly and most joyously excited, though her delight was mingled with misgivings when she observed the stern unbending look of Stiffriggs, whose state of mind seemed to be conpounded equally of perplexity and impatience. Mr, Calmsough was the first to reply to the Baronet; and, as he spoke, a tear trembled in his eye, and his usual equanimity almost forsook him. { lt is too late, Sir John,’ he said, ‘it is too late. I heard just before coming here, that most of the ministers who signed the resolutions of of the Convocation held a meeting yesterday, and came to a final determination to secede.’

‘ Oh, what monstrous folly !’. exclaimed Sir John, ‘to plunge over the brink at the very moment when the strong arm of Government was stretched out to save them ! ’

‘ I beg your pardon, Laird,’ said Stiffriggs, hardly able to bridle in his wrath ; ‘ I beg your pawrdon, sir, but I see nae folly in the step ava, but the very reverse. A pity it wad be,- indeed, if the upricht ministers o’ the Kirk o’ Scotland were to be led aff their feet by the fleecbing of the big folk upbye in Lunnon after they’ve fought sic a hard battle for principle, and been tig-tagit for years, waiting on this Bill and the ither Bill, as if the breath o’ the Kirk’s nostrils dependit on Acks o’ Pawrliment!’

' Stop, stop, Mr. Stimperton, my dear sir, you labor under a serious mistake.’ ‘Ou ay, nae doot, I labor under mony a mistak’; but, by your leave, Laird, I’m under nane ava in this case. It’s you, Sir John, and your freens, alloo me to say, that mistak’ the case o’ placing her on a firmer and braider foundation than -ever. Surely, Sir John, ye" forgot the rock she’s built on, or ye wad ne’er speak as you do. Bless you, sir, a’ she wants is to be let alane on her auld and everlasting foondadation.’ ‘ The endowments, though, Mr Stimperton ; you forget the endowments.’ ‘ I forget nane o’ the endooments ; but they may gang to the mischief if they canna be held withoot makin’ the Kirk a slave to Caesar.’

‘ Pity me, Ringan !’ said Mrs. Renshaw, ‘ wha do ye ca’ Caesar? It maun be a doug surely, a doug’s name. They ca’ mony'a'febilie Caesar.’ ‘ Whist, whist ! neighbor, yen ken naething aboot it—just as little as the Laird hirasel’,’ said Stiffriggs, with a good humored guffaw.

(To be continued—commenced on July 26.)

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Bibliographic details

THE CHIMNEY COENER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 174, 23 October 1880

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THE CHIMNEY COENER. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 174, 23 October 1880

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