Wick - Haldane (1797)

Having preached on his way to Wick, James Haldane arrived there on the 25th and was most hospitably entertained by another Mr A. Millar, the chief inhabitant, to whom he was a messenger of grace, under circumstances of deep interest. He preached during the week to large congregations, and on the market-day twice to 1,000 persons, morning and evening.

"Lord's-day, October lst.?Preached in the morning to about 2,500 people. Heard the minister, in the forenoon, preach from Matt. xxii. 5, 'And they made light of it.' He represented that men, in becoming Christians, first began to work out their own salvation and that then God wrought in them, &c. He spoke much of the criminality of such as found fault with ministers, ' who were,' he said, ' the successors of the apostles,?the ambassadors appointed to carry on the treaty of peace between God and man.' In the afternoon preached to about 4,000 people, and took notice of what appeared contrary to the Gospel in the minister's sermon, himself being present."

During the week days he continued as usual to preach at different places, sometimes once, and sometimes twice a day, in the country parishes, and again on the Lord's-day at Wick, to congregations which crowded together from all quarters, amounting in the morning to more than 2,000, and in the evening to upwards of 4,000 people. On the 5th October, there is an entry where he notices basing preached at Freswick, in the parish of Canisbay, where there was a small Society of Baptists, who had been formed into a Church by means of a pious Baronet, a Sir William Sinclair, who had preached amongst them for several years.

The results of this tour in Caithness will be again more particularly noticed, but perhaps it cannot at present be more fitly concluded than by the insertion of the following letter. It is written by the wife of a pious minister at Elgin, a venerable lady, who was one of those to whom Mr J. A. Haldane was then the messenger of peace. She was the daughter of that Mr A. Millar, of Staxigo, near Wick, whose hospitality is so gratefully acknowledged. Mrs M'Neil's letter was written shortly after Mr Haldane's death and is dated 20th March 1851. It is addressed to the excellent surviving sister of Mr Aikman, whose own recollections have furnished some valuable incidents for this and the preceding chapter:

"I now come to that part of your letter wherein you mention my dear and much loved and respected friend, Mr James Haldane,?a name very dear to me. I have often thought that there was something of idolatry in my affection for that good man. If I have ever felt or known anything of the truth, he was the blessed instrument; and not to myself only, but he was the instrument used by God for the conversion of my dear brother and sister, in his first visit to Caithness. Both the latter died of typhus fever, in the hope of a glorious immortality, a few months after his visit to Caithness. I had a married sister, who died of fever about two years previous to your dear brother (Mr Aikman's) and dear Mr Haldane's visit to Caithness. At the time of her being seized with illness, I was young, thoughtless, and lively.

"The fever being deemed infectious, the doctor persuaded my parents not to allow either of my sisters or myself to see her. However, early in the morning on which she died, my eldest sister and myself were sent for to see her before her death. She had early in life been made a partaker of Divine grace and was a most affectionate sister. We lived in the country. She lived in the town of Wick. Her husband brought us into the room where she lay; she was then in the agonies of death. I had never seen one in that state before, and being much attached to her, it made a very deep impression upon my mind, and I became much concerned about my soul. My health gave way, and I was wasted to a shadow. I concealed from every person the state of my mind, and always sought retirement, but did not know where to flee for deliverance from the guilt of sin. I had relations who lived within a few miles of Thurso. They wished me very much to visit them, in the hope the change might be useful to me, and my parents and their friends were equally anxious for this. But it was health to my soul which I needed and longed for. However, as they wished it, I went. Some days after I went there, my aunt had gone into Thurso, and when she returned she said the town seemed in an uproar, or something to that effect, about a remarkable preacher who had come there, and that he seemed very zealous, and was preaching in the open air.' I immediately set off, accompanied by one of my cousins. It was on a Saturday evening. I went with my cousin to the place. He was standing on the top of an outer stair, dressed in a grey coat, with tied hair, and powdered. But I think I shall never forget the fervour and divine unction with which he proclaimed the Gospel of mercy. It rained very heavily, and although very wet and miry where the congregation stood, no one, I think, moved to go away until the sermon was over. I felt very unwell but was riveted to the place, and sorry I was when he finished his subject.

"On Sabbath, I went in the forenoon to the parish church. The minister's text was 4th and 5th verses of the sixth chapter of Galatians. In the evening Mr Haldane preached in a yard, where it was thought there were 4,000 people assembled. He took occasion to show the fallacy of the doctrine preached in the forenoon. I was standing beside a number of the genteel people, but not religious people. Some of the gentlemen called out, ' Stone him!' others, Stop him!' However, no person obeyed their commands, and Mr Haldane went on with his subject. At last this gentry all left the place, and I was -very glad to be rid of them. This minister, of whose erroneous teaching Mr Haldane had said so much, was a particular friend of my dear father. My mind was in distress lest my father should take any dislike to Mr Haldane; and that if Mr Haldane should go to Wick, I might not have the liberty to hear him. I next day wrote to nay sister, giving an account of the whole matter, and said all I could in Mr Haldane's favour. Your dear brother (Mr Aikman) had hurt his leg in coming out of a boat. This confined him to his lodgings, in Mr George Millar's house, for several weeks, so that I did not see him in Thurso. Owing to your brother being confined so long, they determined that Mr Haldane should come to Wick until Mr Aikman should get better. It seems they had previously no intention of stopping at Wick, but the Lord had purposes of mercy for some there. When Mr James Haldane arrived, an express was sent to my father to let him know. When I heard this information given, my heart trembled between fear and joy. I was afraid way fatter would not allow my sisters and myself to go to hear him, because he had said so much about his favourite minister; and I was just saying to my eldest sister that I feared we would not be allowed, when my father came into my room, and said, ' Make yourselves ready to go and hear Mr Haldane, and your mother and myself will also go.' I could not describe my joy. We went, and the people were assembling. It was in a large yard. Mr Haldane, after singing and prayer, gave out the 7th verse of the first chapter of Haggai,?"Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Consider your ways.' My father heard with deep attention. As for myself, I was completely riveted; my eyes could see nothing but Mr Haldane, and my ears hear no sound but his voice. Well, that was the text and sermon which the Lord blessed for the conversion of my dear father. After the sermon, my father said to my sister and me, Go into Mr Craig's, and give your mother's compliments and my own, and ask Mr Haldane if he will kindly come out to Staxigo with you.' (Mr Craig was my brother-in-law.) My joy was great, and I thought, surely the Lord has heard my prayers. Mr Haldane very kindly consented at once, and he came, and for two weeks, if not more, he remained in my father's house,?indeed, as long as he was in the place, except when he went into the town to preach, which he did every day, and we always walked in and out again with him. My eldest sister then alive, and my youngest brother, were both at that time also brought to Christ, so that there were four of us who I trust were all brought out of darkness into God's marvellous light. Could I but love that worthy man P He threw his whole soul into his subject, and com?mended the truth to everyone's conscience, as in the sight of God. Your brother only came to Wick the day before they left the country, so that I only saw and heard him once at that time. Both of them, with Mr Innes, came round again in 1799; but whenever they came, my father's house was headquarters with the whole of them.

"I recollect the last sermon Mr Haldane preached in our chapel in Wick (some years afterwards, in 1805, on his fourth tour to Caithness) was on these words,?' Finally, brethren, farewell.' I thought, shall this be the last sermon he shall preach here? and I felt my spirits sink within me.

"This was indeed the last. The last night he was in our house he read the 4th of Philippians and made some remarks. He wrote me several letters, one of which I now enclose, and a very short one, mentioning that he had sent me some books for my Sabbath-schools.

"I may add that I believe there was not a district in Scotland where their labours were so much blessed as in Caithness. In Orkney, too, the Lord made them very useful. But the good done by those godly men was remarkable. Under God, they were the means of bringing the Gospel to Wick and Thurso.

"When Mr Haldane came first to Wick in the year '97, it was in the harvest time, in the month of October. One gentleman, at that time a very careless man, gave liberty to the shearers to leave the field and go to hear Mr Haldane, which they did and reaped the field by moonlight. This I believe was only once. But from that time he paid more attention to religion, and, I believe, under Mr Cleghorn's ministry, was savingly converted to the truth. Often did my dear brother Benjamin say to me upon his death-bed, that he blessed God he had ever known and heard dear Mr Haldane. He died in February, '98, and my sister about three weeks after. My sister was twenty-four years of age, and my dear brother eighteen years. They were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in death were not long divided. Both were beautiful and handsome, and both, if there were any favourites, were the favourites with my father, and were loved by all who knew them. I, too, was lying ill and despaired of at the time. You may believe what a trial this was to our parents, but God wonderfully supported them.

"The deep distress of mind I was in when I first heard Mr Haldane I could not describe; and when the Gospel was revealed to me in all its glory, my joy was great, so much so that I was sometimes so overcome with it, I thought I could contain no more. Often do I wish I now felt the same brokenness of heart and the same lively hope which I had in the days of my youth. Often, when these good men were in Caithness, many would walk twenty miles to hear them, and return home in the evening.

"Worthy Dr. hums has lived to see all those who then were fellow- helpers with him consigned to the house appointed for all living, while their emancipated spirits are now rejoicing before the throne of God. I trust he may be spared a long while yet, to labour for the good of souls. May lie yet have many given him for his joy and crown Mr Campbell was only once in Caithness. He, too, was an excellent minister. Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. May it be our happiness, my dear friend, to meet those holy men of God at His right hand, when we go hence and are no more!

"My letter is not fit for any eye but that of a friend; but though I write confusedly, perhaps Mr Haldane may find some interesting things in it, to show how his worthy father was esteemed, and the good he was the means of doing in Caithness.

"All my blunders I hope he will kindly overlook. At my advanced age, on the borders of seventy-five, I cannot expect to be very free from blunders in my way of stating what I have, but I can vouch for all as facts which I have written."

Mr James Haldane left Wick on the 11th of October, 1797, thus concluding his labours in Caithness, on a day memorable as that on which the great naval victory was gained of Camperdown. On that day he had preached twice, probably little thinking of the very different scenes, amidst which his gallant relative was engaged; although private memoranda, never intended for any other eye but his own, show how much that relative was habitually in his heart, and in his prayers before the throne of grace. He did not know of the victory for some time, although the booming of the guns was actually heard on that coast. On arriving at one of the towns, the public rejoicing announced the event. The place was in a great bustle, and the itinerants were shown into an inferior room. Having addressed a letter to his uncle, he desired the waiter to convey it to the post-office. The direction struck the man, and the letter was carried to the landlord, who, in a few minutes, entered, and apologizing for the mistake, begged the gentlemen to follow him to another room, as he was resolved that any friend of the Admiral's should have the best accommodation his house could supply.

From 'The Lives of James and Robert Haldane,' by Alexander Haldane.

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