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Let Kedar's wilderness afar
Till midst the streams of distant lands
This day I despatched a special messenger to Mr. N., who lives across a pathless waste at the distance of twenty-two miles. But, let me not forget that the number of miles is no very accurate measure of distance; for what the exact length of a Shetland mile is cannot easily be determined.
Had some conversation with Mr. R. after preaching, and learned he had been sixteen years a gospel labourer in these islands, and from very small beginnings, and only after surmounting great discouragements, he has succeeded in collecting about one hundred members, and a congregation of considerable size. His chapel cost about £400. Some of his members are scattered up and down through the islands, and I trust they are as salt to season others. His health was broken, and irreparably injured by lying in damp beds, and neglecting to change his clothes when he arrived wet and weary at a hut. A missionary should at any event carry with him dry linen and clothes; and, although the poor inhabitants have in many places but one apartment, he should beg to be alone for a few minutes after his arrival, and immediately change the whole of his dress. Nothing less than this can save his life. And let him sit by the fire all night, but let him on no account lie on a damp bed, or on one respecting which he is not satisfied that it is perfectly dry. These cautions are the more
necessary, as the climate is very wet, and the rain generally accompanied with cold wind. Returning to my lodgings, I was agreeably surprised to find that my only fellow-lodger was Captain T., of Glasgow. He came hither on business, and I flatter myself that we may return together.
Lerwick is remarkable for having a street covered with flag-stones, but in no place fit for a cart to pass. There are one or two vehicles of that name, but I never
Saturday 29.-Received a note from Mr. N. He is very poorly, but purposes to be with me to-day, or Monday. I think my cough is no worse, and my sea sickness and dizziness have nearly vanished. Yesterday saw a man who knew Mr. N., and mentioned some cases of his usefulness. The narrator seemed to be a gracious man, and had been benefited by his instrumentality. He said "Mr. N. found preaching good for his cough, it helped to bring up the defluxion." Who has not heard that a cough has been exasperated by speaking? but this is something new.
To-day have glanced over Dr. Edmonston's work on the Zetland Islands, but found little that was edifying or interesting. The mass of the population lies, 1. In a parenthesis, including Lerwick and Scallaway, extending about six miles: 2. In the south of the mainland, where there is a Baptist chapel, and a pious deacon of that persuasion: 3. In the Isle of Yell, which is, I think, sixteen miles in length, and which, from a variety of causes, is in a state of peculiar moral destitution. The principal islands are three, viz., Mainland, Unst, and Yell, besides which, there are thirteen on the east side of the mainland, and nineteen or twenty on the west, and lastly eight in the Sound of Yell.
The population of Shetland is estimated at about 25,000. All the islands are divided into (perhaps) thirty parishes; but these are again classed into "ministries," each comprehending two or more parishes, and thus one clergyman has the spiritual care of several districts. His duty then is, at all times, one very difficult of accomplishment, and the Shetland minister has need of "a frame of adamant, and a soul of fire," if he would give to each a portion of meat "in due season." The minister of Dunrossness has not only the cure of that parish, and the adjoining ones of Sandwick and Conningsburgh, but the Fair Isle, at a distance of twenty-four miles from the mainland, is part of his charge. And this isle is only to be reached by crossing the dangerous "roost" of Sumburgh, in a boat of the slightest frabric. The minister of Bressa has one parish in an isle on the east side of the main, another in a second island on the west side, and a third, forming part of the main. The minister of Tingwall has three parishes under his care, viz., Tingwall, Whiteness, and Westdale. What renders the scanty provision that is made for the spiritual instruction of the people the less efficacious is, that in a country where there are no roads, and which is everywhere intersected with voes or bays, it is with great difficulty that the people, thinly scattered over a wide surface, can attend the sermon, which once in two or three weeks is preached in their church. The house of the minister is at a great distance from the far greater part of his flock, and they can have little intercourse with him, and must be strangers to his pastoral care and superintendence. Sure I am that no one with a heart alive to the best interests of man can visit this land, and not think of Him, who, when he saw the multitude scat
tered and faint, like sheep without a shepherd, instructed his disciples to pray that labourers might be sent forth into the harvest.
Sabbath, June 30.-This forenoon heard Mr. M. lecture from the 67th Psalm. It was a devotional exercise. The church was very well attended. In the afternoon heard Mr. R., the Independent pastor, preach from Galatians vi, 9, a plain, serious discourse-somewhat discursive. In the evening I attempted to lecture in his chapel on the parable of the prodigal son. It was a season of comfort. The congregation was crowded and deeply serious. Mr. R. has two of his deacons in the country district of the mainland; one, Mr. T., who is himself a pastor, and was educated at Mr. Haldane's institution for educating preachers, lives about the centre of the island, at a place called Buxti; and another in the western part of the island, who each and both speak and labour in their circle. Besides these, there is a Baptist deacon in Dunrossness, who has a little chapel and a little flock, and is said to be equally zealous and useful in his labours of love.
The people throughout the islands, the lower class at least, are exceedingly poor. Mr. R. declares, many a householder may be found without a shilling in his pocket. They could give a meal, but have not a fraction to spare. Mr. T. tells me the rents have not been reduced since war times, that leases are not granted, that farms are generally only three or four acres in size, and that their prospects are, if possible, more gloomy than existing difficulties. In each parish it is said there exists a parochial school, and in nearly every one, one or more supported by the Edinburgh Society. Almost every individual can read-vast numbers can write and cast accounts, and many understand navigation. School
ing is two shillings per quarter. Superstition is prevalent, but it is happily dying away. The superstitious practice of dropping melted lead into cold water, and learning the secrets of futurity from the shape and figure which the metal assumed on cooling, as well as the practice of wearing it in the bosom, were so common in no very remote times, that sheet-lead was a common article of importation from Scotland. A lady now living declares she remembers in her youth that her father regularly got a supply for his tenants.
July 1. I have met with several circumstances of an encouraging nature, but am somewhat exercised at present by obstacles which present themselves to my itinerancy. The weather seems to be broken, and shower succeeds shower, a thing not a little discouraging in a country where there is neither road nor track, and where the eye cannot help you on the way, in consequence of volumes of mist which roll down the mountains, and often separate a guide from the man whom he conducts. Add to this, my cough begins to discourage me, and, to increase my uneasiness, this evening I could not obtain a horse for hire, a more profitable and most ridiculous way of using horses being preferred to the letting of them. What grieves me most is the thought that, while I am away from my accustomed post, I should do so little for the cause on which I am commissioned.
July 2.-Every thing gave way to the persevering kindness of Mr. O. but the weather and my cold. This morning he got me the sheriff's horse, and we set out together, with the intention of keeping company as far as Whiteness voe, whence I was to proceed to Sandsting. For two hours' ride, (for it is useless to measure distance in these islands by any other scale