In a previous post, I mentioned the concern a group of lay-leaders in Easter Ross had about possible criticism of their meeting together for mutual prayer and fellowship. What happened once they begun meeting? William Findlater tells of some repercussions:
'The judiciousness of their conduct, as well as their devoted piety, in thus recording their sentiments and objects, soon became evident. Their meeting thus exclusively, and being composed chiefly of men who did not frequent their parish churches, their motives were misrepresented, and their character aspersed by the moderate clergy, who at that time carried things with a high hand, both in Church courts and in their Parishes. These excellent men were stigmatized as ‘leaders of a hostile faction, – promoters of schism and division, – censorious, &c., and worshippers of idol shepherds – a term applied to the popular ministers, and as breaking asunder the harmony that should exist betwixt ministers and people.
'Such was the influence of these reports and calumnies, no doubt exaggerated or distorted, that soon after they had held some of their meetings, the late pious and excellent Mr. Mathieson of Kilmuir, to whose church some of these men repaired, made some pointed and personal allusions as to their conduct. In a few days thereafter, two of their number, who were his regular hearers, called upon him, and after requesting an interview in his study, and shortly stating the object of their visit, put into his hands the above document, which having read attentively, affected him deeply. He cordially embraced them, admitted that he had been misinformed as to their views, and ever after esteemed them as his dearest and most valued Christian friends, and uniformly vindicated their characters when assailed – esteeming them as the truest friends to the church and the cause of religion in his day, and acknowledged that the duty in which they were engaged should be an example to ministers, who he wished had such a meeting for such purposes among themselves – a wish which in a few years thereafter was realized, on the admission of Dr. M’Intosh to Tain, and Mr. Forbes to Tarbet, which the writer believes is still kept up by the majority of the members of that presbytery.
'From this meeting, he believes, emanated the first proposal of a Society for missions, called ‘the Northern Missionary Society,’ which has excited such a lively interest in that part of the country, as to be warmly supported, by liberal collections and donations, from all the contiguous parishes. The late highly respected and deeply lamented Dr. M’Intosh was among the first who called the attention of his brethren, and the religious public in Ross-shire, to its establishment, and was appointed and continued its active and confidential Secretary till his death.'