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And thus, with scarcely any books of amusement, without any games of chance, without stimulating liquors, and without ever seeing a newspaper, our simple ancestors managed to beguile their hours of leisure and relaxation cheerfully and innocently; and, on the whole, perhaps quite as rationally, if not quite so elegantly, as their more bustling and ambitious offspring. Amidst the manifold improvements of more recent times, (the value of which, in some respects, we are far from denying), it may yet be considered very questionable, whether all that has been abandoned of former manners has been equally well replaced, and whether even our progress in knowledge and refinement has not been but too dearly purchased by the sacrifice of qualities still more valuable.
This brief outline (for it is nothing more) of a state of rural society which many of our older readers must have witnessed in their youth, though few vestiges of it now remain, may perhaps to some persons seem here unnecessary or misplaced; but, besides our desire to present to English readers a picture, sketched from real life, of the lovely simplicity of the olden day, we think that it will serve as a key to much of what is most interesting in the subject of this memoir; for in a household somewhat similar to the one we have described were spent the early years of Alexander Waugh; and to the influence of such scenes upon a heart of no ordinary sensibility, may be fairly ascribed many of the most valuable, as well as delightful, traits of his character.
Towards the latter end of the last century a
new state of things commenced in Scotland, which has greatly changed both its external condition and the manners of the people. The introduction of manufactures into the towns and villages, by raising the price of labour, greatly ameliorated the outward circumstances and comforts of the operatives; but this sudden flow of worldly prosperity, accompanied, as it necessarily was, by the promiscuous intercourse of numerous bodies of people thus brought into close collision, and intermixed with persons of doubtful or licentious character, produced a baneful effect upon the religious habits and good morals of this class of the population. About the same period, the small farmers were almost entirely superseded in a number of the agricultural counties by an improved system of husbandry, which, together with a more considerable capital, and greater economy of labour, required a wider field of operation; and which, by affording a higher rent, offered a strong inducement to the land holders to let out their property in more extensive farms. Many of this new class of farmers, who, by their skilful enterprise, were soon raised to a state of wealth and independence, instead of walking in the steps of their predecessors, by regularly worshipping God in their families, and cultivating sober and pious habits, made it their chief ambition to imitate or outstrip the worst extravagances of their superiors, by indulging in every species of luxury and dissipation, of vice and impiety. And if it be true that evil communications corrupt good morals, the examples of such masters must have been followed by most injurious consequences, not only to their own families, but also to their servants and dependents, and all who came under their influence.
The bitter fruits produced by this new state of things soon began to manifest themselves, particularly in the neglect of the duties of domestic devotion, for the observance of which our fathers had been eminently distinguished. The great disregard of this sacred service, of such vital importance for preserving the fear of God in the hearts of the rising generation, has been accompapied, step by step, by scenes of profaneness and vice, which would have caused the men of a former generation to tremble. Notwithstanding our Sabbath schools, and the numerous and zealous exertions made in every part of the country to communicate salutary and useful instruction to the young, - exertions to which there is nothing parallel in any preceding part of our history, crimes, instead of being diminished, appear to be still on the increase; and the calendars of our justiciary courts are stained by a multiplicity of daring and enormous acts of wickedness and depravity, committed by young delinquents.
In such a discouraging aspect of matters so vitally connected with the best interests of the country, every pious and well-constituted mind will be disposed to ask with anxious alarm, What will the end of these things be?
The following observations, by a celebrated divine, appear to us deserving of most serious consideration, and by no means irrelevant to the
objects of the present work :-“ The public state of religion in the world must entirely depend on the care bestowed on the cultivation of it in private families. If the nursery be neglected, how is it possible that the plantation should prosper? Such as the families are of which congregations, churches, and kingdoms, are composed, such will be the flourishing or decayed state of religion in these larger communities; and consequently it is as clear as noonday, that the disregard shewn to God in our households is the fatal source of that amazing corruption of manners in the present age, which almost every one pretends to lament, but almost none sets himself in earnest to reform. Would you put a stop to abounding iniquity, and promote the cause of God and religion, begin at home, and let your Maker have that honour in your families to which he is entitled.”*
The subject of this memoir has left an interesting account of the moral worth and fervent piety of his parents; and it gives us pleasure to remark, that in those holy and auspicious days of Scottish history, there were few towns, or villages, or glens, in the lowland counties, where persons of similar character were not to be found.
“ My father was an industrious and kind parent. He was, I believe, an upright Christian before God, as he was confessedly a just and honest man before the world. He had been nominated to be an elder by Mr. Bell, minister of Gordon, in the established church; but declined
* The Rev. Mr. Walker, of Edinburgh,
to accept, both from a modesť sense of his inability, and from a settled disapprobation of the violent measures in the planting of ministers in vacant parishes by lay patronage, which were at that time employed by the ruling party in the General Assembly. These sentiments led him to countenance the public-spirited steps of the first ministers who stated a secession from that ruling and overbearing party. He united with the congregation of Stitchell and Morebattle in calling the Rev. Mr. Hunter to be their pastor. Afterwards he joined in the call to the Rev. Mr. Coventry to be minister of Stitchell; and continued to walk, to the time of his death, with that church, in all the ordinances of the Lord blameless.
“ He worshipped God in his family regularly morning and evening; and on the Lord's day examined his children in regard to their acquaintance with divine truth. He took them, whenever they were able to go with him, to the house of God, and endeavoured to form their minds to the love of piety. I owe every thing, under God, to his piety and affection : by the former he was led to devote me to God in the service of his Son ; and by the latter, to lay out a considerable part of his substance for my education for that service.”
In addition to these “ short and simple annals,” extracted from Dr. Waugh’s private diary, we may add, that to the habits of devotion, more particularly, which characterised his father's house, he frequently, in after-life, reverted with the most lively feelings of grateful delight. He was wont