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There sit, all dressed becomingly in white, the fond and happy baptismal group. The babes have been intrusted, for a precious hour, to the bosoms of young maidens, who tenderly fold them to their yearning hearts, and with endearments taught by nature, are stilling, not always successfully, their plaintive cries. Then the proud and delighted girls rise up, one after the other, in sight of the whole congregation, and hold up the infants, arrayed in neat caps and long flowing linen, into their father's hands. For the poorest of the poor, if he has a heart at all, will have his infant well dressed on such a day, even although it should scant his meal for weeks to come, and force him to spare fuel to his winter fire.
And now the fathers are all standing below the pulpit, with grave and thoughtful faces. Each has tenderly taken his infant into his toil-hardened hands, and supports it in gentle and steadfast affection. They are all the children of poverty, and, if they live, are destined to a life of toil. But now poverty puts on its most pleasant aspect, for it is beheld standing before the altar of religion with contentment and faith..
This is a time, when the better and deeper nature of every man must rise up within him; and when he must feel, more especially, that he is a spiritual and an immortal being making covenant with God. He is about to take upon himself a holy charge; to promise to look after his child's immortal soul; and to keep its little feet from the paths of evil, and in those of innocence and peace. Such a thought elevates the lowest mind above itself-diffuses additional tenderness over the domestic relations, and makes them who hold up their infants to the baptismal font, better fathers, husbands, and sons, by the deeper insight which they then possess into their nature and their life.
The minister consecrates the water-and as it falls on his infant's face, the father feels the great oath in his soul. As the poor helpless creature is wailing in his arms, he thinks how needful indeed to human infancy is the love of Providence! And when, after delivering each his child into the arms of the smiling maiden from whom he had received it, he again takes his place for admonition and advice before the pulpit, his mind is well disposed to think on the perfect beauty of that religion of which the Divine Founder said, "Suffer little children to be brought unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven!"
The rite of baptism had not thus been performed for several months in the kirk* of Lanark. It was now the hottest time of persecution; and the inhabitants of that parish found other places in which to worship God and celebrate the ordinances of religion. It was the Sabbath-day,—and a small congregation, of about a hundred souls, had met for divine service in a place of worship more magnificent than any temple that human hands had ever built to Deity. Here, too, were three children about to be baptized. The congregation had not assembled to the toll of the bell,—but each heart knew the hour and observed it; for there are a hundred sun-dials among the hills, woods, moors, and fields, and the shepherd and the peasants see the hours passing by them in sunshine and shadow.
The church in which they were assembled, was hewn, by God's hand, out of the eternal rocks. A river rolled its way through a mighty chasm of cliffs, several hundred feet high, of which the one side presented enormous masses, and the other corresponding recesses, as if the great stone gir dle had been rent by a convulsion. The channel was overspread with prodigious fragments of rock or large loose stones, some of them smooth and bare, others containing soil and verdure in their rents and fissures, and here and there crowned with shrubs and trees. The eye could at once command a long stretching vista, seemingly closed and shut up at both extremities by the coalescing cliffs.
This majestic reach of rivers contained pools, streams, rushing shelves, and waterfalls innumerable; and when the water was low, which it now was in the common drought,† it was easy to walk up this scene with the calm blue sky overhead, an utter and sublime solitude. On looking up, the soul was bowed down by the feeling of that prodigious height of unscaleable and often overhanging cliff. Between the channel and the summit of the far-extended precipices, were perpetually flying rooks and wood-pigeons, and now and then a hawk, filling the profound abyss with their wild cawing, deep murmur, or shrilly shriek.
Sometimes a heron would stand erect and still on some little stone island, or rise up like a white cloud along the black walls of the chasm, and disappear. Winged creatures alone could inhabit this region. The fox and wild cat chose more accessible haunts.# Yet here came the persecuted Christians, and worshipped God, whose hand hung over
† Pron. drout.
+ au as in aunt.
their heads those magnificent pillars and arches, scooped out those galleries from the solid rock, and laid at their feet the calm water in its transparent beauty, in which they could see themselves sitting in reflected groups, with their Bibles in their hands.
Here, upon a semi-circular ledge of rocks, over a narrow chasm of which the tiny stream played in a murmuring waterfall, and divided the congregation into two equal parts, sat about a hundred persons, all devoutly listening to their minister, who stood before them on what might well be called a small natural pulpit of living stone. Up to it there led a short flight of steps, and over it waved the canopy of a tall graceful birch tree. This pulpit stood on the middle of the channel, directly facing that congregation, and separated from them by the clear, deep, sparkling pool into which the scarce-heard water poured over the blackened rock.
The water, as it left the pool, separated into two streams, and flowed on each side of that altar, thus placing it in an island, whose large mossy stones were richly embowered under the golden blossoms and green tresses of the broom. Divine service was closed, and a row of maidens, all clothed in purest white, came gliding off from the congregation, and crossing the stream on some stepping stones, arranged themselves at the foot of the pulpit, with the infants about to be baptized. The fathers of the infants, just as if they had been in their own kirk, had been sitting there during worship, and now stood up before the minister.
The baptismal water, taken from that pellucid pool, was lying consecrated in a small hollow of one of the upright stones that formed one side or pillar of the pulpit, and the holy rite proceeded. Some of the younger ones in that semi-circle kept gazing down into the pool, in which the whole scene was reflected, and now and then, in spite of the grave looks, or admonishing whispers of their elders, letting a pebble fall into the water, that they might judge of its depth from the length of time that elapsed before the clear air-bells lay sparkling on the agitated surface.
The rite was over, and the religious service of the day closed by a psalm. The mighty rocks hemmed in the holy sound, and sent it, in a more compacted volume, clear, sweet, and strong, up to heaven. When the psalm ceased, an echo, like a spirit's voice, was heard dying away high up among the magnificent architecture of the cliffs, and
once more might be noticed in the silence the reviving voice of the waterfall.
Just then a large stone fell from the top of the cliff into the pool, a loud voice was heard, and a plaid* hung over on the point of a shepherd's staff. Their watchful sentinel had descried danger, and this was his warning. Forthwith the congregation rose. There were paths dangerous to unpractised feet, along the ledges of the rocks, leading up to several caves and places of concealment. The more active and young assisted the elder-more especially the old pastor, and the women with the infants; and many minutes had not elapsed, till not a living creature was visible in the channel of the stream, but all of them hidden, or nearly so, in the clefts and caverns.
The shepherd who had given the alarm had lain down again in his plaid instantly on the green swardt upon the summit of these precipices. A party of soldiers were immediately upon him, and demanded what signals he had been making, and to whom; when one of them, looking over the edge of the cliff, exclaimed, "See, see! Humphrey, we have caught the whole tabernacle of the Lord in a net at last. There they are, praising God among the stones of the river Mouss. These are the Cartland Craigs.
By my soul's salvation, a noble cathedral !" "Fling the lying sentinel over the cliffs. Here is a canting covenanter for you, deceiving honest soldiers on the very Sabbath-day. Over with him, over with him-out of the gallery into the pit."
But the shepherd had vanished like a shadow; and mixing with the tall green broom and bushes, was making his unseen way towards a wood. "Satan has saved his servant; but come, my lads-follow me-I know the way down into the bed of the stream-and the steps up to Wallace's Cave. They are called the 'Kittle Nine Stanes.' The hunt's up. We'll be all in at the death. Halloo-my boyshalloo !"
The soldiers dashed down a less precipitous part of the wooded banks, a little below the "craigs," and hurried up the channel. But when they reached the altar where the old gray-haired minister had been seen standing, and the rocks that had been covered with people, all was silent and solitary-not a creature to be seen. "Here is a Bible dropt
* Pron. plad.
+ Pron. sward-a perfect rhyme to ward.
by some of them," cried a soldier, and, with his foot, spun it away into the pool. “A bonnet—a bonnet,”—cried another-" now for the pretty sanctified face that rolled its demure eyes below it."
But, after a few jests and oaths, the soldiers stood still, eyeing with a kind of mysterious dread the black and silentwalls of the rock that hemmed them in, and hearing only the small voice of the stream that sent a profounder stillness through the heart of that majestic solitude. "Curse these cowardly covenanters-what, if they tumble down upon our heads pieces of rock from their hiding-places? Advance? Or retreat?"
There was no reply. For a slight fear was upon every man; musket or bayonet could be of little use to men obliged to clamber up rocks, along slender paths, leading, they knew not where; and they were aware that armed men, now-a-days, worshipped God,-men of iron hearts, who feared not the glitter of the soldier's arms-neither barrel nor bayonet-men of long stride, firm step, and broad breast, who, on the open field, would have overthrown the marshalled line, and gone first and foremost, if a city had to be taken by storm.
As the soldiers were standing together irresolute, a noise came upon their ears like distant thunder, but even more appalling; and a slight current of air, as if propelled by it, passed whispering along the sweet-briers, and the broom, and the tresses of the birch trees. It came deepening, and rolling, and roaring on, and the very Cartland Craigs shook to their foundation as if in an earthquake. "The Lord have mercy upon us-what is this?" And down fell many
of the miserable wretches on their knees, and some on their faces, upon the sharp-pointed rocks. Now, it was like the sound of many myriads of chariots rolling on their iron axles down the stony channel of the torrent.
The old gray-haired minister issued from the mouth of Wallace's Cave, and said, with a loud voice, "The Lord God terrible reigneth." A water-spout had burst up among the moorlands, and the river, in its power, was at hand. There it came-tumbling along into that long reach of cliffs, and in a moment filled it with one mass of waves. Huge, agitated clouds of foam rode on the surface of a blood-red torrent. An army must have been swept off by that flood. The soldiers perished in a moment-but high up in the cliffs, above the sweep of destruction, were the covenanters