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THE REV. GEORGE COWIE, OF HUNTLY: HIS PEOPLE
- AND TIMES.
A VOICE FROM THE FATHERS TO THE CHILDREN.
The following excellent address was ing the past is so dazzling to his vision delivered by the Rev. Joseph Morison, | as to impart a somewhat sombre tinge of Millseat, Aberdeenshire, on occasion to contemporary scenes. of the opening of the New Congrega- We are not insensible to this danger: tional Chapel, at Huntly. As Mr. Cowie for although the men referred to in was undoubtedly the Whitefield of the our topic belonged to a period which North of Scotland, we feel persuaded stretches a little beyond our early years, that a sketch of him and his times, so their memory is embalmed in our vivid and truthful, will be both accept- most fragrant sympathies, and their able and edifying to our numerous names, from the spring-time of our readers. We deem it an honour to being, have stood before our imaginahave a beloved brother capable of pro- tion as the types of a noble spiritual ducing so beautiful an analysis of men heroism. and times which deserve an ampler But, in taking our stand-point for a record.-EDITOR.]
few moments this evening, at the disThere is an inspired maxim, which it tance of half a century from the scene will be needful for me to keep before of observation, there may be some liamy mind in the discussion of the topic bility to exaggeration, not only from which has just been announced, —"Say a partially defective vision, but also not thou, What is the cause that the from those obscuring influences which former days were better than these ? time and circumstances have cast upon seeing thou dost not inquire wisely the period of our survey. Our investiconcerning this.” When a man has gations cannot be minute; men and very considerably distanced the meri- measures are but dimly seen ; the great dian of life, and when the shadows are and the good, especially when we now lengthening in the direction of the think of them as glorified spirits in morning sun, his sympathies, perhaps, heaven, are apt to be looked at too exare apt to take a retrograde course, and clusively as great and good, while the the bright halo which he sees surround- little and the selfish, which must also
have clung to them, are gladly over- in that period—in other words, with looked, and scarcely allowed to come “ Cowie, his people and times.” before the mind; and thus, as it is with The name of Cowie has been long objects which are magnified in the mist, cherished in the north of Scotland, with we may be apt to entertain overwrought all the fondness and familiarity of a ideas of the mighty dead.
household-word; and even now, after There is, however, quite enough in the lapse of forty and six years, and the deeds of these men to command after his contemporaries have gone the our reverence and gratitude and imi- way of all the earth, that name is still tation, without our ceasing to regard fragrant with many who never saw his them as frail and fallible mortals like face or heard his voice. The children, ourselves. And, moreover, it is the and grandchildren, and great grandkeeping of this fact, that they were frail children of those who loved Cowie, have and fallible, before our minds, that will been taught to honour his memory, and render their example most powerfully to pronounce his name with reverence. influential. Should we make seraphs of But his "record is on high, and his them, it would only tend to lift them remembrance shall never be cut off.” above the region of our sympathies, Although he has ceased from his laand in that case, we should worship bours for nearly half a century, his more, but imitate less; for it is neither works do follow him in a pre-eminent saint-worship, nor hero-worship, that degree, and still praise him in the will ever make us either saints or gate." Cowie was raised up and qualiheroes.
fied for the sphere iu which he had to We are not, then, bere to-night to move,-and just at the time when such “ build the tombs of the prophets, and an instrument was required. The state garnish the sepulchres of the right of religious society about the time he eous;" but to stir ourselves up to emu- commenced his labours in Huntly, late the piety and earnestness of our was in many respects peculiar, and fathers ;-to follow in their wake ; to he was singularly qualified for meeting stand by the ark of God as they stood its necessities. But in order to this, by it; to do the work of our generation he soon made the discovery that he as they did the work of theirs; and if must shape out a course for himself, possible, to leave our names and cha- which would neither be pleasing to the racters as deeply and legibly inscribed church nor the world. He beheld ignoupon the records of the kingdom of God rance and impiety overspreading the in our day, as they left their names and one, and a contracted bigotry paralyzing characters inscribed upon it in their the other; and had to prepare himself day,
for encountering a storm of opposition On occasion of the services connected from both. The world was willing to with the opening of this handsome award him its stale compliment of being edifice, which has been erected for the a madman; and his own religious conworship of God, and which does so nexion was not slack to fulminate its much credit to the Christian liberality highest censures against him as a faand taste of this congregation, a fit vourer of sects, and an enemy to conopportunity is doubtless offered for cast stituted order. But unmoved by the ing a retrospective glance at byógone one or the other, this man of God coudays. The erection of this house of rageously took his position,-& position prayer is naturally associated with the perfectly unique at the time, and stood erection of its predecessor, and this forth in the double capacity of Evanagain brings our minds into immediate gelist and Reformer in these northern contact with the persons who figured parts. Cowie, it may be allowed, de
rived somewhat of his celebrity from the time for our addresses this evening the peculiarity of his circumstances; | is necessarily so limited, and partly bebut this, instead of detracting from the cause the materials at my command for substantial greatness of his character, such an object are so very scanty. Pertonds only the more to establish it. haps the depth of his piety and the ar. His circumstances called forth the en dour of his devotional feeling were the ergies of bis spirit. He had a power to chief elements in all that he was, and meet these circumstances,—to grapple all that he did. His mental experiences with them, and bend them to his will. in religion, from the period of bis conInstead of allowing the circumstances version to the close of his life, seem to to master him, he mastered the circum- have been of great expansion and depth, stances, and gained a victory for liberty and at the same time a little shaded with and truth, when an inferior man would gloom. This may have arisen partly have succumbed to authority, and suf- from certain peculiarities in his physifered a defeat. It is a most ungracious cal and mental temperament, and partly mode of dealing with the services of also from the enlarged views he was en Cowie, to tell us that he owed the abled to take of the character of Jedistinguished place he held in the es- hovah, his holiness and justice, and timation of the religious public to the the extent and spirituality of his moral peculiarity of his position, and that if government. His religion, from first to he had lived in our day he would have last, appears to have been at the farthest taken a different level. We have lis remove from superficiality. His relitened to some such statements, but can-gious joys were balanced and sobered not sympathize with either the truth or down by the vision of Jehovah's throne, the spirit of them. Cowie was indeed and the attendant seraphim, crying Holy, the man for his times, but the gifts and Holy, Holy! The awful thunders of graces which enabled him to be so Sinai, and the melting splendours of would have fitted him for being a man Calvary, were placed, as it were, before of mark in our own times, or in any his mind in juxtaposition, and he knew times. And we do not think that the of no consolation that did not spring man who could go ahead of his times from the contemplation of their blended and of his coadjutors by half a century, glories. is to be dealt with after such a fashion. As far as I have been able to discover, The progress of religious society would the general strain of his preaching and be indefinitely postponed, were it not devotion bore a close and striking relafor the vigorous efforts of such men. tion to the depth and pungency of his Mind, the religious mind as much as own religious experience. He delighted any, is apt to move in ruts, and it re to expatiate upon the glory and majesty quires now and then a man of Cowie's of the Divine Being—his holiness, jusstamp to jolt it out, and allow it to run tice, faithfulness, and grace.
It was along smoother, as well as faster. We the God of the Bible that he exhibited owe such individuals a debt of obliga- to the view of his auditors, and not an tion, which I fear we are but ill pre- imaginary Deity, accommodated to the pared to estimate.
taste of the sinner, or the morbid sentiI once had some thought of express- mentality of the mere religious proing an opinion regarding some of the fessor. He did not deal in partial, onecauses which contributed to raise this sided views of God, such as might insingular man to that position of moral duce his bearers to think of him as a and spiritual influence which he was being all kindness, all forbearance and honoured so long to occupy, but have tenderness, without a due and proporabandoned the attempt, partly because tionate consideration of his sterner at
tributes. His hearers were not allowed I may safely say, that if any doubts to forget that “our God is a consuming were ever entertained on this question, fire.” He was accustomed to present the they were those, and those only, which moral claims of the Deity in such a light, had sprung up in their own bosoms, as at once to check the presumption of the under a penetrating impression of the formalist, and to encourage the humble claims of God, and a humble consciousand penitent believer. His preaching, ness of their own unworthiness in his I apprehend, was of such a nature as to sight; but, as it regarded others, there render it impossible for the sinner to was no room left for doubts or misgivfeel any complacency in the character of ings on this all-important point. Nor Jehovah otherwise than as it is beheld was this conviction reached by a special in Emmanuel's cross. We may, there- stretch of charity, but by the visible, fore, reasonably conclude that those who and at the same time, unobtrusive, virwere converted under such a ministry, tues of their character. You might not, or who were attracted to it afterwards, indeed, be long in their company, withwould, to a large extent, be Christians out feeling that you had cause to doubt of the right stamp, and would be pre- the genuineness of your own religion, pared to exert a healthy influence upon from the dwarfishness of its growth as the times in which they lived ; and such, contrasted with theirs, but there would we believe, was actually the case. For, be no dubiety in regard to them. I give although there may have been a few un- this as the result of my own experience happy formalists in Cowie's congrega- and information, without wishing it to tion, who could sit unmoved under his be understood that all Cowie's people, most withering and scorching appeals, without exception, were of this decided there was a noble band associated with stamp; but I speak of this as a general him, whose hearts God had touched, and characteristic. They made it manifest who, after serving "their generation, by to lookers-on that their citizenship was the will of God, fell asleep.” These, in ac- in heaven. There was no mistaking the cordance with the prescribed topic, were
earnestness and heavenward bearing of COWIE'S PEOPLE.
their character. They declared plainly It would be altogether preposterous that they sought the better country, and for me to attempt, on the present occa- deported themselves as pilgrims in this sion, to particularise on a subject so ex- present world. tensive, as well as so far beyond the Now, brethren, this is a great thing range of my own personal knowledge. in religious professors; and all such have It may be stated, as a general remark, need to take care lest the lineaments of that, as Couie himself was, such, to their spiritual character should become some extent, were his people. It has so effaced as to render their recognition been my happiness to know personally a matter of difficulty. It is a painful some of these honoured men, and one state of things when we need to infer of them I had the privilege of calling the piety of church members from negamy father. Having a wish to say a few tive evidence rather than from positive, words about these men which might be from what they are not rather than in some degree profitable, and finding it from what they are,—from hoping the impossible to go into details, I have been best, rather than from seeing it. There obliged to look out for some principle was no need for resorting to this halfof generalization which might enable hoping-half-despairing way of getting me to include a few particulars under at the thing with reference to the people more general heads. And, first of all, we are now speaking of, at least with
They were persons of unmistakeable very many of them :-they let all men religious character
see that they were Christians,-not by