Графични страници
PDF файл

both to old and young. He regularly superintended also the parochial and other schools within the bounds, not satisfying himself with the annual and perhaps formal inspection of them by the members of presbytery, but frequently looking into the vil. lage seminary; affectionately and respectfully encouraging the teacher; speaking in the language of condescending tenderness to the youngest of the pupils; and addressing to them the words of instruction. Mr. Collins of Glasgow, so distinguished for his disinterested efforts in some of the loftiest walks of Christian philanthropy, spent his youth at Eastwood; and I have repeatedly heard him express the delight with which, at the distance of not much less than half a century, he recalled the image of the pious young pastor when he entered the school on those visits of kindness. The impressions on the young heart in those early days were deep; and Mr. Collins is one of many intelligent witnesses who are ready to bear a willing testimony to the salutary influence of ministerial fidelity and affection towards the “ lambs of the flock.”

In connexion with the education of youth, Mr. Macgill was most assiduous in the general management of the poor of the parish. Eastwood at that time had not become so much a manufacturing locality as it has been of late years, and the number of public works was small. Still it was an extensive and populous parish, and the poor were on the increase. Dissent had drawn away considerable numbers from the parish church, and the weekly collections thus diminished required to be augmented by means of assessment. Dr. M. along with a body of faithful elders, paid a very minute attention to the management of the poor, both in principle and in detail; regularly attending the meetings of heritors and session, and guiding their proceedings with that calm dignity and order which ever distinguished him in public matters. In this department of duty he was warmly countenanced and liberally assisted by a lady of singular intelligence and discretion, then resident in the parish, and holding in it a deep patrimonial interest. I refer to Mrs. Montgomery of Auldhouse. This excellent person did not satisfy herself with thinking that she discharged her duties to the parish when she devolved them on hired officials. She entered frequently the cottages of the poor; she inquired into their circumstances, and administered to their comforts; nay, we find her occasionally attending the parochial meetings, and pleading in person the cause of the destitute. * To the neglect of the poor on the part of the wealthy landowners of Scotland must be traced much of the evil which of late years has attended the management of pauperism. Non-residence, or what amounts nearly to the same thing, the habit of devolving the whole concerns of the poor on agents and factors, has proved by far the most fruitful source of ignorance and carelessness in

* In the minutes of Heritors and Session, Mrs. Montgomery's name appears along with that of Sir John Maxwell, signing the proceedings.

regard to matters of the very highest moment in this vital branch of political economy. Great advantages would arise both to the wealthy and the working classes by the attention of men of property to the concerns of the poor. They would see with their own eyes, and they would soon come to understand fairly the actual condition and habits of the people. The finest chords of sympathy would thus be touched; and they would take a deeper interest in the concerns of labouring men; counselling and directing them; encouraging industry and sobriety; and, by timely and judicious interposition, preventing many evils injurious to all classes. There is a real pleasure in providing liberally for the industrious who have been unfortunate, and supplying them with even better aliment than they ever earned, as the reward of virtue in the time of misfortune; but to treat all characters alike, and to nourish, as was often done in England, under a former administration, in a manner approaching to luxurious living, applicants of every description, is not only increasing the burden of the people without necessity, but taking away the distinction which justice and sound policy require to be maintained betwixt the virtuous and the profligate.

Dr. Macgill retained through life his deep impressions of the duty of a clergyman to be peculiarly attentive to the physical and moral wants of the poor. Although properly belonging to a much later period of his history, we may here notice his admirable tract on the subject of “ Public provision for the poor,” published in 1820, because it contains an exposition of the principles on which he began to act while minister at Eastwood, and which developed themselves more and more in all his future relations. Competent judges have long ago pronounced this work to be one of the most valuable compends of all that is really useful in principle and in detail on the subject of which it treats. It sketches luminously the history of public provision for the destitute; vindicates its propriety; and guards against its abuse. It lays down most valuable cautions against the extremes of rigidity on the one hand, and profuseness on the other; the one of these being the fault of the Scottish system, and the other, that of the English. It opposes most successfully the arguments of a cold selfish philanthropy in opposition to a plan of enlarged and liberal legalized provision for the destitute. “ The holy Scriptures,” says the author, “delight to represent the poor as the peculiar objects of the compassion and care of God. They dwell on their sorrows and afflictions; and they seek to preserve an interest in their favour, not only by direct pictures of their sufferings, but by those epithets and expressions of kindness and regard, which connect them habitually in our minds with all those views which keep alive and cherish respect and compassion. They throw around the sufferer a sacredness, which even the remembrance of past misconduct is not allowed to violate. While the prodigal of every class are warned of their danger, and threatened,

after a merciful forbearance, with the awful effects of divine displeasure; and while the idle and disorderly are justly reprobated as unworthy the name of Christians, and, in their state of idleness, are excluded from Christian aid; yet even the most unworthy are, in time of suffering, presented to us as objects for our compassion; and we are commanded “to be merciful, as our heavenly Father is merciful, who makes his sun to shine, and his rain to fall, on even the evil and unthankful.” And with what earnestness, what frequency, what powerful motives, suited to every principle of the soul, is the relief of the indigent and helpless recommended and enjoined! No difficulties, no dangers, are brought forward to damp the spirit, and to check the exertions, of charity. They express no fear that men be too compassionate; no danger that the spirit of benevolence rise too high, or extend too widely. The spirit which they chiefly fear, is that of insensibility and selfishness; and to raise men above its influence, to guard against its power, its suggestions, its neglects, and its cruelties, is the object to which they direct their precepts, their exhortations, and their warnings.

“ This charity, as it is the duty and true interest of man, is the best worldly policy, especially of the rich. There are other dangers to be guarded against in society, besides the idleness or improvidence of the labourer; and there are other and more pleasing means of inspiring a spirit of well-doing, besides

« ПредишнаНапред »