The East Nisbet Conventicle.
John Blackadder`s account
.
( quoted in Men of the Covenant, Alexander Smellie, vol I p 260-2
.)

 

But more remarkable and more beautiful than the ordinary conventicle was a Communion in the fields. John Blackader will describe to us one of these, which he, in company with " Mr. Welsh and Mr. Riddell," superintended and enjoyed at East Nisbet in the Border country. After relating what means were adopted to shield from interruption and alarm those whose rendezvous, however fit it might be, was "by the lions' dens and the mountains of leopards," he goes on with his tale‑ 

" We entered on the administration of the holy ordinance, committing it and ourselves to the invisible protection of the Lord of Hosts, in Whose name we were met together. The place where we convene was every way commodious, and seemed to have been formed on purpose. It was a green and pleasant haugh, fast by the waterside. On either hand, there was a spacious brae, in form of a half round, covered with delightful pasture, and rising with a gentle slope to a goodly height. Above us was the clear blue sky, for it was a sweet and calm Sabbath morning, promising to be indeed one of the days of the Son of Man. The Communion tables were spread on the green by the water, and around them the people had arranged themselves in decent order. But the far greater multitude sat on the brae face, which was crowded from top to bottom.

"Each day, at the congregation's dismissing, the ministers with their guards, and as many of the people as could, retired to their quarters in three several country towns, where they might be provided with necessaries. The horsemen drew up in a body, and then marched in goodly array behind the people, until all were safely lodged. In the morning, when they returned, the horsemen accompanied them. All the three parties met a mile from the spot, and marched in a full body to the consecrated ground. The con­gregation being fairly settled, the guardsmen took their stations as formerly. They secured the peace and quiet of the audience ; for from Saturday morning, when the work began, until Monday afternoon, we suffered not the least affront or molestation from enemies : which appeared wonderful. The whole was closed in as orderly a way as it had been in the time of Scotland's brightest noon. And, truly, the spectacle of so many grave, composed, and devout faces must have struck the adversaries with awe, and been more formidable than any outward ability of fierce looks and warlike array. We desired not the countenance of earthly kings ; there was a spiritual and divine Majesty shining on the work. Amidst the lonely mountains we remembered the words of our Lord, that true worship was not peculiar to Jerusalem or Samaria — that the beauty of holiness consisted not in material temples. We remembered the Ark of the Israelites, which had sojourned for years in the desert, with no dwelling but the tabernacle of the plain. We thought of Abraham and the ancient patriarchs, who laid their victims on the rocks for an altar, and burned sweet incense under the shade of the green tree.

The ordinance of the Last Supper was signally backed with refreshing influence from above. Few such days were seen in the desolate Church of Scotland, and few will ever witness the like. There was a rich effusion of the Spirit shed abroad in many ; their souls breathed in a diviner element, and burned upwards as with the fire of a pure and holy devotion. The ministers were visibly assisted to speak home to the conscience of the hearers ; they who witnessed de­clared, they carried more like ambassadors from the court of heaven then men cast in earthly mould. The tables were served by some gentlemen and persons of the gravest deportment. The communicants entered at one end, and retired at the other, a way being kept clear to take their seats again on the hillside. Solemn it was and edifying, to see the composure of all present ; and it was pleasant, as the night fell, to hear their melody swelling in full unison along the hill, the whole congregation joining with one accord. There were two long tables, and one short—across the head—with seats on each side. About a hundred sat at every table. There were sixteen tables in all, so that about three thousand two hundred communicated that day."

Rev John Blackadder.

 18/07/2011

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