The incident related in the following lines occurred thus:--At a meeting of Presbytery appointed to deal with the case of the Reverend David Macrae, of Gourock, Scotland, one of the members of the Court had stolen out to enjoy his pipe and the quiet of his own thoughts for a few minutes before engaging in the strife of debate, when he was accosted by a stranger, woefully dilapidated, who asked him with great earnestness if he would tell him where he could see Mr. Macrae, as he was most anxious to have some conversation with him. "Do you know, sir," said this poor, ruined one, "that on the doctrine of future punishment Mr. Macrae and I are in perfect accord, and I am very desirous to tender him my cordial sympathy and support. I esteem it my duty to do what I can to comfort and cheer this young and courageous minister of the Gospel, in the cruel and unjust persecution to which he is being subjected."
The Presbytery with one accord in one place,
Were met to consider and speak on the case
Of David Macrae, bent with reverend skill,
On putting him through th' ecclesiastical mill
I was there, I slipped out just the plain truth to tell,
To ha e a quate thinkin time a by mysel
On the new fangled doctrine o nae hell ava,
Which gies wrang doers comfort that is na sae sma'.
It's a gey soothm thoct aye, it pleases them weel,
Leavin hooseless an hameless the muckle black deil,
It delivers mankind frae a fear and a dread,
Sae I pondered along never lifting my head
Is it richt? is it wrang? is it truth or a lie?
We will cannily find oot the truth by and by
If it's truth or a lie that lies at the root
Should be shown when the doctrine grows up and bears fruit
Thus I daundered and pondered, on lifting my e'e
An answer to some o my thocts cam to me
There cam' doon the causey a comical chiel,
Wi an air an a gait that was unco genteel,
By the cut o' his jib an the set o his claes
He was ane o thae folk wha ha e seen better days,
He was verra lang legged hungry-lookup an lean,
His claes werna' new, nor weel hained nor clean,
Tight straps his short trews to meet shiny boots drew,
Where wee tae an' big tae alike keeked through,
His coat ance black braid-claith, was rusty enough,
It was oot at the elbows an' frayed at the cuff,
It was white at the seams, it was threadbare and thin
An' to hide a defects, buttoned up to the chin
Bruised and dinged in the crown and the brim was his hat,
But set jauntily on his few hairs for a that,
Paper collar an' cuffs showed in lieu of a shirt,
As he daintily picked his way over the dirt,
His face leaden and mottled with blossom that grows
Out of whisky, an' deep bottle-red was his nose;
His e'en bleared an' bloodshot, were watery an' dim,
Pale an' puffy the eyelids, an' red roun' the rim;
Thae e'en, that ha'e gotten a set in the head,
Wi' watchin' ower often the wine when it's red.
Eh, me, sirs! what wreck in the universe can
Be sae awsome to see as the wreck of a man!
Whatever of talents, or good looks, or gear,
What w'alth o' good chances had been this man's here;
What gifts that might make his life lofty and grand,
A blessin' to others, a power in the land.
All was gone, gifts an' graces, the greatest, the least,
Were hidden beneath the broad mark o' the beast--
Stamped on, I may say, frae the head to the feet,
All lost of the man but his pride an' conceit;
Varnished ower wi' the airs o' the shabby genteel,
He was gingerly steppin' his way to the diel.
But now he is gaun to greet me on the way
Comin' forrid as ane that has something to say.
Takin' off wi' a flourish the bit o' a hat,
He booed wi' an air maist genteel ower that;
"Excuse me, sir, stoppin' you thus on the way,
Can you bring me to where I'll see David Macrae?
He's a preacher that men of my culture must choose;
I assure you he holds and he preaches my views;
A doctrine divested of all vulgar fears,
That I've held and believed in for years upon years.
A doctrine most sensible, likely, and true,
I endorse it, sir, as, I trust, you also do?"
I answered him, gien a bit shake to my head,
As I looked at the man and considered his creed;
"You'll see Mr. Macrae, my man, there is nae doot,
If you stan' aboot here till they're a' comin' oot;
But my frien', this new doctrine, that fits ye sae fine,
May be yours verra likely, but ne'er can be mine."