Beside the Bonnie Brier Bush


The following is an excerpt from the above work of fiction (1895) by Ian Maclaren. I delighted in this book, toughing out the Scots brogue, to discover a village of generous- hearted neighbours going about their business, and keeping a constant look toward Christ out of the corners of their eyes:

"So they sat down together beside the brier bush, and after one
glance at Marget's face the minister opened his heart, and told her
the great controversy with Lachlan.

Marget lifted her head as one who had heard of some brave deed, and
there was a ring in her voice.

"It maks me prood before God that there are twa men in Drumtochty
who follow their conscience as king, and coont truth dearer than
their ain freends. It's peetifu' when God's bairns fecht through
greed and envy, but it's hertsome when they are wullin' tae wrestle
aboot the Evangel, for surely the end o' it a' maun be peace.

"A've often thocht that in the auld days baith the man on the rack
and the inqueesitor himself micht be gude men and accepted o' God,
and maybe the inqueesitor suffered mair than the martyr. A'm
thinkin', Maister Carmichael, that it's been hardest on Lachlan."

The minister's head was buried in his hands, but his heart was with
Marget.

"It's a strange buik the Bible, and no the buik we wud hae made, tae
judge by oor bit creeds and confessions. It's like a head o' aits in
the harvest time. There's the ear that hauds the grain and keeps it
safe, and that's the history, and there's often no mickle nutriment
in it; then there's the corn lying in the ear, which is the Evangel
frae Eden tae Revelation, and that is the bread o' the soul. But the
corn maun be threshed first and the cauf (chaff) cleaned aff. It's a
bonnie sicht tae see the pure grain fallin' like a rinnin' burn on
the corn-room floor, and a glint o' the sun through the window
turning it intae gold. But the stour (dust) o' the cauf room is mair
than onybody can abide, and the cauf's worth naethin' when the
corn's awa."

"Ye mean," said the minister, "that my study is the threshin' mill,
and that some of the chaff has got into the pulpit."

"Yir no offended," and Marget's voice trembled.

Then the minister lifted his head and laughed aloud with joy, while
a swift flash of humour lit up Marget's face.

"You've been the voice of God to me this day, Mrs. Howe, but if I
give up my 'course,' the people will misunderstand, for I know
everything I gave was true, and I would give it all again if it were
expedient."

"Nae fear, Maister Carmichael, naebody misunderstands that luves,
and the fouk all luve ye, and the man that hauds ye dearest is
Lachlan Campbell. I saw the look in his een that canna be mista'en."

"I'll go to him this very day," and the minister leaped to his feet.

"Ye 'ill no regret it," said Marget, "for God will give ye peace."

Lachlan did not see the minister coming, for he was busy with a lamb
that had lost its way and hurt itself. Carmichael marked with a
growing tenderness at his heart how gently the old man washed and
bound up the wounded leg, all the time crooning to the frightened
creature in the sweet Gaelic speech, and also how he must needs give
the lamb a drink of warm milk before he set it free.

When he rose from his work of mercy, he faced the minister.

For an instant Lachlan hesitated, and then at the look on
Carmichael's face he held out both his hands.

"This iss a goot day for me, and I bid you ten thousand welcomes."

But the minister took the first word.

"You and I, Lachlan, have not seen eye to eye about some things
lately, and I am not here to argue which is nearer the truth,
because perhaps we may always differ on some lesser matters. But
once I spoke rudely to you, and often I have spoken unwisely in my
sermons. You are an old man and I am a young, and I ask you to
forgive me and to pray that both of us may be kept near the heart of
our Lord, whom we love, and who loves us."

No man can be so courteous as a Celt, and Lachlan was of the pure
Highland breed, kindest of friends, fiercest of foes.

"You hef done a beautiful deed this day, Maister Carmichael; and the
grace of God must hef been exceeding abundant in your heart. It iss
this man that asks your forgiveness, for I wass full of pride, and
did not speak to you as an old man should; but God iss my witness
that I would hef plucked out my right eye for your sake. You will
say every word God gives you, and I will take as much as God gives
me, and there will be a covenant between us as long as we live."

They knelt together on the earthen floor of that Highland cottage,
the old school and the new, before one Lord, and the only difference
in their prayers was that the young man prayed they might keep the
faith once delivered unto the saints, while the burden of the old
man's prayer was that they might be led into all truth.

Lachlan's portion that evening ought to have been the slaying of
Sisera from the Book of Judges, but instead he read, to Flora's
amazement--it was the night before she left her home--the thirteenth
chapter of I Corinthians, and twice he repeated to himself, "Now we
see through a glass darkly, but then face to face."

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