Murdoch Campbell was minister at the Free Church at Culnacarn in Glenmoriston from 1930 to 1934, and lived at the manse there. He is remembered as being "a very Hooooly man" and was noted for his fire and brimstone sermons. This autobiography was published in 1974 and the chapter recounting his time in Glenmoriston is shown here. Many thanks to Jeanne Wilkinson for finding the book.
MEMORIES OF A WAYFARING MAN
Murdoch Campbell was born in Ness on the Island of Lewis. The son of a crofter missionary, he attended the village school until he was twelve, saw military service in 1918, and became a shipwright in Greenock. At the age of twenty-two he began his studies at Skerry's College, going on to graduate from Edinburgh University, and then to study at the Free Church of Scotland College. His ministerial charges were Fort Augustus, Partick Highland, Glasgow, and Resolis, Ross-shire; he retired because of ill-health in 1968. He was Moderator of his Church in 1956. During the Second War he was Naval Chaplain at Portsmouth and Plymouth.
A man of feeling and intellect, of humanity yet exceptional spirituality, Mr. Campbell was unusually gifted as a pastor, preacher and evangelist, and at the same time won the esteem and deep appreciation of a wide public as the author of a considerable variety of books. These include Gleanings of Highland Harvest, on the later effects of evangelical revival; In All Their Affliction, on difficulties confronting the Christian; From Grace To Glory, meditations on the Book of Psalms; and biography, collections of sermons, Biblical exposition, allegory and other works. There are also pamphlets on topics such as ecumenism and premillenarianism, and some Gaelic poems or "spiritual songs".
He died, aged seventy-three years, in January, 1974.
© Copyright Murdoch Campbell 1974
First Printed 1974 Reprinted 1975
Printed by Highland Printers Ltd. Diriebught Road. Inverness.
|One||An Early Blessing||1|
|Two||My First Prayer||7|
|Three||A Night To be Remembered||19|
|Six||The Beloved Voice||47|
|Seven||The Gathering Storm||59|
|Eight||The Anointed Pillar||67|
|Nine||Two Seaside Graves||77|
|Twelve||The Word Of Exhortation||109|
|Thirteen||Stars In Retrospect||117|
|Fourteen||A People Near To Him||125|
|Fifteen||A Better Country||133|
In August 1930, I was, in ecclesiastical phrase, licensed to preach the Gospel. Though called to become the pastor of easier congregations, I was led to consider the needs of Fort Augustus and Glenmoriston, which in those days had quite a considerable bi-lingual congregation.
The day of my ordination was calm and beautiful beyond any day I can remember. The purple hills which rise by the banks of Loch Ness had their perfect and undisturbed reflection in its waters, while the clearer waters of the Caledonian Canal seemed to mirror even quieter skies and greener trees. I recall how I could bless God that my sense of inward peace was in keeping with the serene world around me.
There was present at the service that day one of the most attractive Christians of his generation. He was one of my Glenmoriston elders. His name was Hugh Mackenzie. A man of prayer and deep piety, his very face at times seemed to shine with the light of Heaven. Hugh was like a man who had 'found great spoil.' His happiness was derived from his almost constant communion with God. Principal John MacLeod used to speak of a cluster of Christian men in the North who were remarkable in their day. They had several things in common. They were humble; they were happy; they were childlike and transparent; and they were free from the habitual censoriousness which so often marks and mars the lives of less spiritual men. Hugh, though almost illiterate, was the Principal's friend, and to observe his joyous reactions to his stories in the Manse of Glenmoriston enabled one to see that only a Christian can be a truly happy man.
At that time Hugh was head gamekeeper on the Ceannacroc Estate. One year the estate was leased to a young Indian prince. The wealthy maharajah arrived by special train at Fort Augustus. With him was a retinue of friends and attendants. His sway over his own kindred was kind but absolute. On the Sabbath morning after his arrival, and when Hugh was preparing to leave for church, a subordinate arrived at his door requesting him to have everything ready for the hill at a certain hour. "You tell his highness," said Hugh, "that today I serve another Prince". The man was astonished at the unheard-of refusal. The outing was at once cancelled and the courteous oriental prince apologised to Hugh later for unintentionally embarrassing him in his religious convictions on the previous day. The Christian bearing and Christlike spirit of a Highland gamekeeper made a deep impression on the maharajah. He pleaded with him to visit India with Mrs Mackenzie, as his personal guests. But Hugh refused the generous offer; for he was happy and contented in his own beloved Glenmoriston. Who knows but that a heathen mind in contact with a true man of God may have seen the great difference between his own "religion of despair" and the Gospel of salvation and hope?
There was a minister in the North who used to tell of a service he once conducted in the Great Glen. During the first prayer he was sensible of a hard spiritual atmosphere which, however, presently changed, giving a deeply comforting sense of God's presence. Someone, he felt, had arrived at the service and had brought a blessing with him. When he opened his eyes, Hugh Mackenzie was standing near with a prayer on his lips — as he was wont — and his very face expressive of "the joy of the Lord."
There were other members of our Kirk Session, such as Mr R. Dean, Mr "Sandy" MacDonald, Mr Alex Fraser, who were among the excellent of the earth. Mr Donald MacPher-son, Glenurquhart, was these men's friend in the Lord. Donald's mind was exact and expansive. His Christian experience was also deep and real. He was a man who, spiritually speaking, had done business in great waters. His spiritual conflicts often brought him to the Throne of Grace for the needed strength. In our Manse at Fort Augustus his earnest but subdued voice could be heard in the night as he wrestled with the Lord in prayer.
Donald once prayed at family worship in a home where a student of Divinity belonging to one of the larger denominations was present. He enjoyed much freedom. He was brought into that state of mind where Time, because it touched Eternity, seemed to be at a standstill. The amazed student said afterwards that his period at College did not provide him with such genuine spiritual light as reached his mind through that one prayer by an uneducated Highland elder.
My beloved friend Hugh I saw on his death-bed. His joy at the prospect of seeing the Lamb on Mount Zion remained with him to the end. The truly appropriate words, "Blessed are the meek," are engraven on the stone which marks the grave where his dust rests by a willowed brook in upper Glenmoriston.
Among the elect ladies who graced our services in those days in Glenmoriston was Mrs Fullerton, who lived at the Inver, and who, in her old age, would have her devoted daughters wheel her in a chair to hear the Word of God preached in the local school.
Over the hills at Stratherrick there lived another worthy Christian who, in some ways, resembled Hugh MacKenzie. His name was Donald MacGillivray. A few hours before Donald passed away I saw him in a hospital in Inverness. All the fears which had sometimes distressed his soul were now gone forever. His sky was like a morning without a cloud. When I asked him how he was, he went on repeating in his native Gaelic the words — "everlasting joy, everlasting joy" ("sonas siorriudh, sonas siorriudh"). On the warm lap of this great assurance and hope a smile settled on his face which even death failed to remove. The minister — the Rev. Ewan MacQueen — who prayed at Donald's funeral service used words which had their echo in some hearts present: "Lord, many of those whom we loved on earth are now with Thyself in Glory, and we long to be with them …"
It was in Fort Augustus that I had one of my first vivid experiences of God, by His Word, comforting me in "the night watches." The words, which left their flavour in my soul ever since, were:
"Thou wilt me show the path of life: Of joys there is full store Before Thy face; at Thy right hand Are pleasures ever more." (Ps. 16).
I was then standing on the threshold of life as a minister of the Gospel — a life which, I soon discovered, has its own peculiar trials, anxieties and frustrations. These words came also to me wrapped in music such as I seldom heard in this world. This staff of comfort the Lord graciously placed, as it were, in my hand as I was entering upon my life's work.
About this time, also, I was sitting one day on a green slope overlooking the village of Kilmonivaig. where J was conducting preparatory communion services. In the quiet calm of that summer day I heard in a voice of exquisite melody a man singing the twenty-third Psalm in the old traditional style. As the Psalm came wafting toward me from the vale below I felt the unspeakable consolation of being under the care of Him who keeps His Israel in every age.
At Glenmoriston, I sometimes looked with wonder at the famous "footprints" near Torgoyle. A hundred and seventy summers have now passed since the famous lay preacher, Finlay Munro, stood there and predicted that, as a proof that his words were from Heaven, his footprints would be seen there by successive generations. And there they are, miraculously preserved by the God whom this apostolic preacher loved so well. Finlay Munro was a man who went forth in the power of Elias calling men out of darkness into the kingdom of light. This sign in the earth is a witness against the errors of the Roman Catholic system which he so often, and on that day, exposed. It is also a sign that the Bible, which he always held in his hand, is the everlasting Word of God.
The men who ministered in other days in that beautifully situated little church at Fort Augustus, were eminent men of God. Mr Francis MacBean and Mr Alexander MacColl were men whose work the Lord had owned. For theological depth and pulpit power there were few in his generation who could compare with Alexander MacColl. The church where he preached was to many a Bethel on Earth. And the afterglow of those days of power seemed to remain there long after the men were gone. There was, for example, an excellent woman in the district, Miss Annie Mason by name, who, like Anna of old, remained there night and day. There were seasons when, like her, I could say: "How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts." One of my successors there, Mr William MacLeod, was so deeply attached to that spot that, like Mr MacBean, he wished his bones to be within a few yards of its walls. Mr Macleod was a man who was "lovely" both in his life and death.
In Fort Augustus, my beloved wife and I mourned over the death of our first child. A few years after this bereavement I was at a Communion in Dores, near Inverness. One day while there, I walked up a quiet hillside road from which I thought I could see far across Loch Ness toward the place where our child's body lay. Overcome by a flood of grief all I could do was to turn my weeping eyes to God and say, "Thy Will be done." To these words I added in all sincerity, "And I bless Thy Name that Thy Will, and not our own, shall be done." No sooner did I whisper those trembling words than I became aware of another Presence. For a moment I was filled with awe, but presently this gave way to a sense of unutterable comfort. A ray of holy light fell upon my spirit. It also appeared to surround me like a luminous and warm light. It was then also that a Voice seemed to speak out of the stillness: "In my Father's House are many mansions: if it were not so I would have told you." These words I truly heard. I then knew that it was well with the child, and that by God's grace I would see him again in the Place where tears are unknown. This was indeed a happy hour, the blessedness of which remained with me for many days.
Another memory of those days was that of visiting Mr Angus A. Macdonald, minister at Strontian in Argyll. Mr Macdonald was a man of much devotional fervour, who in his experimental and warm preaching had a distinct preference for the Psalms, the Song of Solomon and the Gospel according to John. After arriving on the Saturday afternoon at the Manse to assist at his Communion, I instantly felt that "the Lord was there." The melting enjoyment of God's presence was so real that during the time we were at the Church preparing for the Lord's Table I, at least, was awed into silence through the overshadowing of the Eternal.
A similar sense of God's overpowering nearness I once felt at our Manse gate in Fort Augustus. I was at the time saying farewell to the godly Donald MacPherson, Glenurqu-hart, along with Mr Norman Matheson, minister at Kilmorack. My recollection is that Mr Hugh Mackenzie was there also. These brethren are long since together in their eternal Home where the enjoyment of God's face and love remain everlastingly unclouded.
Shortly before I left Glenmoriston I preached one evening in Inverness. There was a person present at the service that night who had been so deeply moved by the Word of God that outside the Church, in the hearing of many people, he proclaimed his intention to give up from that hour his sinful life and to follow the Lord. The following day this man was killed on his way home to the Western Isles. It appears that at the eleventh hour he was plucked as a brand from the burning.
Apart from the death of our child, our four years among the kind people of this lovely Highland Glen are, in retrospect, like a very pleasant dream. Many an hour since then do I go back in memory to those days, and to those choice men and women who, by a life and conversation becoming the Gospel, graced this lower vale, but most of whom now inhabit that blessed Place where death and separation are unknown.
THE BELOVED VOICE
IN AUGUST 1934 we left our beloved Glenmoriston for Glasgow. I had been called to minister to the young — and at that time somewhat disturbed — congregation of Partick Highland Church.