The church and the highlands



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ìSootland under her Early Kings, vol. i., p. 149.

exceedingly that there should be found a single historian bold enough to question their utility or to impugn the motives which inspired them. The lax state of discipline into which the Church had fallen, owing in great measure to the troubles of the times, called aloud for redress, as every honest reader, who is at all conversant with the subject, must admit; and to carp at these reforms, or seek to belittle their importance or the pure spirit which inspired them, by stigmatising them as the fruit of Romanising tendencies," is to display not only the grossest ignorance of ecclesiastical affairs, but the greatest jealousy and malevolence as well. It is unfortunate for the Presbyterian Church that when -driven into a corner, as it needs must be on such a subject, its apologists can do nothing save ob­stinately repeat their exploded fables or raise the familiar but always serviceable cry of "Rome!" The continuity of faith, and the unbroken succes­sion of ritual, from the introduction of Christianity into Scotland down to our own days, which must be apparent to every unprejudiced beholder of the Catholic Church, is either entirely wasted on these flimsy apologists, or, being blind, is of a sort which is far too conspicuous for them to see. They seem to forget, or rather do not find it convenient to ac­knowledge, that the same Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which was celebrated in the days of St. Columba, in those of Nechtan, Queen Margaret, David I. and of Robert the Bruce, is to-day being celebrated in all the Catholic churches throughout the world. Surely this great fact should be sufficient for those who either ignorantly or impudently mislead their •countrymen by endeavouring to obscure the issues which I have raised. It cannot be too often in­sisted on that the Presbyterian Church has nothing

in common with the Church of our forefathers, which fortunately is that, too, of so many of us to-day. I do not wish to be offensive or to hold unduly provocative language, but really it is impos­sible to avoid the reflection that if ever there was a thing or institution which merited the popular taunt of having been " made in Germany," that thing or institution is certainly the Presbyterian Church.

"The innovations of Margaret," says Robert­son,1 "were confined to the court and the clergy. The laws and customs of the Gaelic people remained undisturbed in her days." " The reforming energy of the Queen," says the same author in another place,' " was directed to the court and clergy; she scarcely aimed at effecting any radical change in the principles of government." Indeed, there is absolutely nothing to show that the influence of the Saint was ever exercised in any way which could be considered as prejudicial to the interests of his race by the most patriotic Gael alive. On the contrary, the Queen seems to have married Malcolm with the firm determination to do her best by the people amongst whom her lot was cast. Such scandals and abuses as there were, she rightly determined to do her utmost to remove, in those spheres which were legitimately exposed to her influence. Whilst demurring to Robertson's and other historians' statements3 to the effect that she was the first to introduce pomp and ceremonial into the Scottish court, we are at least entitled to believe that the uniform purity of her life, and the singular nobility of her conduct, conspired to set a bright and rare example, at a time when single­ness of purpose, honesty and devotion to religion

1 Scotland under her Early Kings, vol. i., p. 185.
*Ibid., p. 251. 3 Pounded on Turgot's Life.


182 St. Margaret and Malcolm the Great

and duty were qualities which were, if possible, even less frequently encountered at courts than they are at present. " This distinguished Princess," says Ordericus Vitalis, "descended from a long line of kings, was still more eminent for her great worth and the sanctity of her life." "There is perhaps," says Skene,1 " no more beautiful character recorded in history than that of Queen Margaret. For purity of motives, for an earnest desire to benefit the people among whom her lot was cast, for a deep sense of religion, a great personal piety, for the unselfish performance of whatever duty lay before her, and for entire self-abnegation, she is unsurpassed ; and the chronicles of the time all bear witness to her exalted character."

This Saint's influence was entirely directed to those necessary reforms which constituted her legitimate sphere; and I venture to repeat that she showed no inclination throughout her married life to trespass beyond those limits which her good sense and eminently womanly nature had evidently proposed to her understanding as furnishing the best scope for her energies. Malcolm seems to have been as sensible of this admirable discretion in his wife, as he was of those other beautiful qualities with which she was so abundantly en­dowed and which have endeared her to posterity; and to have rewarded her with his undying con­fidence and affection. That he himself was the barbarian and ignoramus which it has pleased some historians to represent him as, the writer for one refuses to believe. His soubriquet of Caennmòr,'

1 Celtic Scotland, vol. ii., p. 344.



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