It is the property of good and sound knowledge, to putrifie and dissolve into a number of subtle, idle, unwholesome, and (as I may tearme them) vermiculate questions; which have indeed a kinde of quicknesse, and life of spirite, but no soundnesse of matter, or goodnesse of quality.--LORD BACON.--Advancement of Learning.
The following morning, the laird's family went to church as usual, and Hugh went with them. Their walk was first across fields, by pleasant footpaths; and then up the valley of a little noisy stream, that obstinately refused to keep Scotch Sabbath, praising the Lord after its own fashion. They emerged into rather a bleak country before reaching the church, which was quite new, and perched on a barren eminence, that it might be as conspicuous by its position, as it was remarkable for its ugliness. One grand aim of the reformers of the Scottish ecclesiastical modes, appears to have been to keep the worship pure and the worshippers sincere, by embodying the whole in the ugliest forms that could be associated with the name of Christianity. It might be wished, however, that some of their followers, and amongst them the clergyman of the church in question, had been content to stop there; and had left the object of worship, as represented by them, in the possession of some lovable attribute; so as not to require a man to love that which is unlovable, or worship that which is not honourable--in a word, to bow down before that which is not divine. The cause of this degeneracy they share in common with the followers of all other great men as well as of Calvin. They take up what their leader, urged by the necessity of the time, spoke loudest, never heeding what he loved most; and then work the former out to a logical perdition of everything belonging to the latter.
Hugh, however, thought it was all right: for he had the same good reasons, and no other, for receiving it all, that a Mohammedan or a Buddhist has for holding his opinions; namely, that he had heard those doctrines, and those alone, from his earliest childhood. He was therefore a good deal startled when, having, on his way home, strayed from the laird's party towards David's, he heard the latter say to Margaret as he came up:
"Dinna ye believe, my bonny doo, 'at there's ony mak' ups or mak' shifts wi' Him. He's aye bringin' things to the licht, no covenin' them up and lattin them rot, an' the moth tak' them. He sees us jist as we are, and ca's us jist what we are. It wad be an ill day for a' o's, Maggy, my doo, gin he war to close his een to oor sins, an' ca' us just in his sicht, whan we cudna possibly be just in oor ain or in ony ither body's, no to say his."
"The Lord preserve's, Dawvid Elginbrod! Dinna ye believe i' the doctrine o' Justification by Faith, an' you a'maist made an elder o'?"
Janet was the respondent, of course, Margaret listening in silence.
"Ou ay, I believe in't, nae doot; but, troth! the minister, honest man, near-han' gart me disbelieve in't a'thegither wi' his gran' sermon this mornin', about imputit richteousness, an' a clean robe hidin' a foul skin or a crookit back. Na, na. May Him 'at woosh the feet o' his friens, wash us a'thegither, and straucht oor crookit banes, till we're clean and weel-faured like his ain bonny sel'."
"Weel, Dawvid--but that's sanctificaition, ye ken."
"Ca't ony name 'at you or the minister likes, Janet, my woman. I daursay there's neither o' ye far wrang after a'; only this is jist my opingan aboot it in sma'--that that man, and that man only, is justifeed, wha pits himsel' into the Lord's han's to sanctifee him. Noo! An' that'll no be dune by pittin' a robe o' richteousness upo' him, afore he's gotten a clean skin aneath't. As gin a father cudna bide to see the puir scabbit skin o' his ain wee bit bairnie, ay, or o' his prodigal son either, but bude to hap it a' up afore he cud lat it come near him! Ahva!"
Here Hugh ventured to interpose a remark.
"But you don't think, Mr. Elginbrod, that the minister intended to say that justification left a man at liberty to sin, or that the robe of Christ's righteousness would hide him from the work of the Spirit?"
"Na; but there is a notion in't o' hidin' frae God himsel'. I'll tell ye what it is Mr. Sutherlan': the minister's a' richt in himsel', an' sae's my Janet here, an' mony mair; an' aiblins there's a kin' o' trowth in a' 'at they say; but this is my quarrel wi' a' thae words an' words an' airguments, an' seemilies as they ca' them, an' doctrines, an' a' that--they jist haud a puir body at airm's lenth oot ower frae God himsel'. An' they raise a mist an' a stour a' aboot him, 'at the puir bairn canna see the Father himsel', stan'in' wi' his airms streekit oot as wide's the heavens, to tak' the worn crater,--and the mair sinner, the mair welcome,--hame to his verra hert. Gin a body wad lea' a' that, and jist get fowk persuâdit to speyk a word or twa to God him lane, the loss, in my opingan, wad be unco sma', and the gain verra great."
Even Janet dared not reply to the solemnity of this speech; for the seer-like look was upon David's face, and the tears had gathered in his eyes and dimmed their blue. A kind of tremulous pathetic smile flickered about his beautifully curved mouth, like the glimmer of water in a valley, betwixt the lofty aquiline nose and the powerful but finely modelled chin. It seemed as if he dared not let the smile break out, lest it should be followed instantly by a burst of tears.
Margaret went close up to her father and took his hand as if she had been still a child, while Janet walked reverentially by him on the other side. It must not be supposed that Janet felt any uneasiness about her husband's opinions, although she never hesitated to utter what she considered her common-sense notions, in attempted modification of some of the more extreme of them. The fact was that, if he was wrong, Janet did not care to be right; and if he was right, Janet was sure to be; "for," said she--and in spirit, if not in the letter, it was quite true--"I never mint at contradickin' him. My man sall hae his ain get, that sall he." But she had one especial grudge at his opinions; which was, that it must have been in consequence of them that he had declined, with a queer smile, the honourable position of Elder of the Kirk; for which Janet considered him, notwithstanding his opinions, immeasurably more fitted than any other man "in the haill country-side--ye may add Scotlan' forby." The fact of his having been requested to fill the vacant place of Elder, is proof enough that David was not in the habit of giving open expression to his opinions. He was looked upon as a douce man, long-headed enough, and somewhat precise in the exaction of the laird's rights, but open-hearted and open-handed with what was his own. Every one respected him, and felt kindly towards him; some were a little afraid of him; but few suspected him of being religious beyond the degree which is commonly supposed to be the general inheritance of Scotchmen, possibly in virtue of their being brought up upon oatmeal porridge and the Shorter Catechism.
Hugh walked behind the party for a short way, contemplating them in their Sunday clothes: David wore a suit of fine black cloth. He then turned to rejoin the laird's company. Mrs. Glasford was questioning her boys, in an intermittent and desultory fashion, about the sermon.
"An' what was the fourth heid, can ye tell me, Willie?"
Willie, the eldest, who had carefully impressed the fourth head upon his memory, and had been anxiously waiting for an opportunity of bringing it out, replied at once:
"Fourthly: The various appellations by which those who have indued the robe of righteousness are designated in Holy Writ."
"Weel done, Willie!" cried the laird.
"That's richt, Willie," said his mother. Then turning to the younger, whose attention was attracted by a strange bird in the hedge in front. "An' what called he them, Johnnie, that put on the robe?" she asked.
"Whited sepulchres," answered Johnnie, indebted for his wit to his wool-gathering.
This put an end to the catechising. Mrs. Glasford glanced round at Hugh, whose defection she had seen with indignation, and who, waiting for them by the roadside, had heard the last question and reply, with an expression that seemed to attribute any defect in the answer, entirely to the carelessness of the tutor, and the withdrawal of his energies from her boys to that "saucy quean, Meg Elginbrod."